World health experts are warning of the existence of an illness, known only as "Disease X", which has the potential to trigger a serious global epidemic.
Each year the Geneva-based organisation, which is charged with monitoring and safeguarding world health, convenes a high-level meeting of senior scientists to list diseases that pose a serious risk of prompting a major global public health emergency.
Despite its name, disease X is not spread around by one group of highly-gifted mutant children in both comic and film.
During the recent meeting which was held in Geneva, the World Health Organization added Disease X into their Blueprint Disease list as the 9 decease that may cause a worldwide outbreak.
"These diseases posture real general health hazards and further innovative work is required, including reconnaissance and diagnostics", WHO said. The mysterious nature of the disease is meant to ensure flexible planning of diagnostics tests and vaccine strategies, so that that they may be applied to a wide range of possible scenarios.
Chief executive at the Research Council of Norway, John-Arne Rottingen who is a scientific adviser for the World Health Organization committee said in a statement that, "History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before".
Disease X speaks for the information that a genuine worldwide epidemy could be caused by a pathogen, which at present is unknown. Ebola, salmonella, and HIV are believed to be zoonoses. "It is probably the greatest risk", Mr. Rotingen adds.
It could be triggered by a biologic mutation, passed to humans from animals, or man-made - such as a side-effect from a major accident or terror attack using advanced weaponry.
This is important, because it is primary care systems - local doctors and nurses - that provide the best bet of detecting the outbreak of a new disease early and containing it before it spreads. It's a so-called "known unknown" that the World Health Organization says we need to be prepared for, which is why the mystery malady is now on the agency's R&D Blueprint of priority diseases.