A deadly new type of parainfluenza, known as Clade X, is set to kill over 900 million people, John Hopkins University has warned.
Symptoms of the new pathogen include fever, cough, and confusion. In advance stages of the illness, encephalitis – swelling in the brain – will cause patients to fall into a coma and then die.
Researchers at the John Hopkins University performed a disturbing simulation to see how quickly the virus would spread.
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Metro.co.uk reports: The simulation was designed so the pathogen wasn’t markedly more dangerous than real illnesses such as SARS – and illustrates the tightrope governments tread in responding to such illnesses.
American politicians played out the scenario – which was built to be extremely realistic – where a doomsday cult released a genetically engineered virus.
By the end of the simulation in May, representing 20 months after the start of the outbreak, there were 150 million dead around the world – and no vaccine.
The researchers say that the simulation would have ended with up to 900 million dead, nearly 10% of the world’s population.
Eric Toner of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health Security says the world was ‘lucky’ the SARS outbreak wasn’t worse.
Clade X was designed to spread about as easily and kill a similar percentage to SARS, Toner says.
Toner told Business Insider, ‘I think we learned that even very knowledgeable, experienced, devoted senior public officials who have lived through many crises still have trouble dealing with something like this.’
‘And it’s not because they are not good or smart or dedicated, it’s because we don’t have the systems we need to enable the kind of response we’d want to see.’