Five Viruses That Keep Epidemiologist Up at Night

Five Viruses That Keep Epidemiologist Up at Night

Isabella Flores-Pena

Three years ago on Jan 30, 2020, the head of the World Health Organization made a declaration of a “novel coronavirus” that was identified in China. The virus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the spread of COVID-19, which still continues to spread today. The World’s Health Organization keeps a list of viruses and bacteria with pandemic potential. The organization has brought in more than 300 scientists to access and update the list. 

The Nipah virus has its outbreaks almost every year in Asia. It can be transmitted to humans through animals or contaminated foods, as well from human to human. The fatality rate is 40 percent to 75 percent. Animals that could possibly care for the virus contain fruit bats, flying foxes, pigs, horses, cats, and dogs. Transmission can be lowered by washing fruits and fruit products. 

Lassa Fever is a virus in parts of West Africa, but may be in other countries where rodents live. It is carried through a certain type of rat and is picked up when exposed to the rodents’ urine, feces, having direct contact with the rodent, or the food being contaminated. It can as well spread from human to human through having direct contact sexually, wound, and in a medical setting. 1 percent to up 15 percent cases could end up in server hospitalization. A common complication would be deafness and can end up being permanent. 

Zika, a virus carried through mosquitos and when bit by one it spread to you. It can be transmitted from a pregnant to a fetus and blood transfusions. The cases are rarely fatal, but can cause many brain defects in the fetus. The virus is also linked to miscarriages and stillbirth. There have been treatments for this bacteria and it is not said how to have less transmissions. 

MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) is a strand of coronavirus that can be spread from person to person through close contact with someone else infected. The main animal that carries this bacteria is camels and 27 countries since 2012 have reposted infections. This type of  coronavirus grows deep in the respiratory tract, making it less unlikely for it to be passed through a cough or sneeze. The fatality rate is 35 percent and several vaccines have been in development, but none have been approved. 

  SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) was caused after a spillover event between humans and animals. It spreads from person to person through close contact, like close droplets from coughs or sneezes and sometimes through infected surfaces. In 2003 Palm civets were largely blamed for an outbreak. The fatality rate is less than 1 percent yet having no treatment or vaccine. This virus is much easier to contain through public health measures. 

The WHO says this list is not in order from most dangerous to least, but it gives the knowledge of those viruses or bacteria as the potential cause of a serious pandemic.