In 2014, the Ebola virus outbreak killed more than 11,000 people in Africa. This year, the Zika virus is currently affecting millions of people and even unborn children in South America, prompting the declaration of a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
If you think you've seen the worst in terms of deadly diseases, think again. In a study published last week in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," scientists from Switzerland warned that a deadlier virus may emerge, causing more illnesses and deaths.
According to a report on WND.com, the Swiss scientists described the virus as something similar to the one which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, which killed over 700 people during an outbreak in southern China from November 2002 to July 2003.
The virus, which is called "WIV1-CoV," may come from zoonotic sources, meaning it may be transmitted from animals to human beings. It is likely to exhibit flu-like symptoms which will eventually escalate into pneumonia.
"Focusing on the SARS-like viruses, the results indicate that the WIV1-coronavirus (CoV) cluster has the ability to directly infect and may undergo limited transmission in human populations," the researchers wrote in their study.
Lead researcher Dr. Vineet Menachery of Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explained that the transmission of this new virus to humans is not yet a certainty, but if it happens, the scenario is discouraging.
"This virus may never jump to humans, but if it does, WIV1-CoV has the potential to seed a new outbreak with significant consequences for both public health and the global economy," the lead scientist explained.
Menachery added that the capacity of the WIV1-CoV to jump from animals such as bats to human is "greater" than originally thought.
"While other adaptations may be required to produce an epidemic, several viral strains circulating in bat populations have already overcome the barrier of replication of human cells and suggest re-emergence as a distinct possibility," the researcher said.
The Swiss researchers nevertheless expressed optimism that the scientific community can develop a way to fight this virus and to prevent fatalities.