"Just three years ago, on Jan. 30, 2020, the head of the World Health Organization made a landmark declaration: A "novel coronavirus" that had first been identified in China had spread to a degree where it was now a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)."
The virus now known as SARS-CoV-2 — which causes the disease COVID-19 — is still spreading. But for those who study infectious diseases, talking about possible next pandemics is a necessity.
That's why the World Health Organization keeps a list of viruses and bacteria with pandemic potential. Jill Weatherhead of Baylor College of Medicine says prioritizing diseases is generally based on two factors: their ability to spread and the ability of humans to treat them.
The list helps guide scientists, governments and organizations in investing energy and funds to study the pathogens most likely to cause the greatest devastation to humans. The WHO develops "blueprints" with strategic goals and research priorities for each disease on the list."