health-related fact checks

FACT CHECK: Disease X is a potential disease, not an actual illness

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FACT CHECK: Disease X is a potential disease, not an actual illness
Disease X is a placeholder concept for an illness that is currently unknown but could pose a serious threat to human health

Claim: A new pandemic called Disease X is emerging and the public is urged to prepare for this serious threat.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The YouTube video bearing the claim was posted on February 25 by Sangkay Janjan, a channel notorious for posting dubious and erroneous claims online. As of writing, it has 149,468 views, 4,000 likes, and 1,047 comments.

The video’s title and thumbnail imply the existence of the new pandemic Disease X: “May bagong pandemic na naman? Lahat ng tao pinaghahanda na!” (Is there a new pandemic? Everyone is getting ready!)

The bottom line: Disease X is not an actual illness. It is a term used by scientists as a placeholder concept for a yet-unknown pathogen that could pose a serious threat to human health.

According to the World Health Organization, Disease X “represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease.”

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health added that the purpose of labeling the placeholder concept is to “encourage proactive thinking about pathogens that could cause a pandemic,” contributing to awareness and research efforts for pandemic prevention. 

Preparedness efforts: News about the hypothetical Disease X had already been reported in 2020 and 2022, along with calls to boost pandemic preparedness efforts. 

In the Philippines, lawmakers sought the creation of the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) to address the country’s needs to prepare for future pandemics and public health threats. According to the Department of Health (DOH), the proposed center would help prepare the country for future pandemics and public health threats. (READ: Is it time for PH to have its own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?)

In 2022, the US CDC opened a country office in the Philippines to strengthen its cooperation with the DOH.

Fear mongering: Various false claims have been made about Disease X, which circulated following a healthcare panel discussion at the World Economic Forum’s 2024 annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland last January.

Reuters previously debunked misconceptions about Disease X as a deliberate effort from health institutions to start another pandemic. Similarly, the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and have also published fact checks about these conspiracy theories on Disease X.

These same sentiments can be seen in Sangkay Janjan’s video, hinting that scientists were withholding information about a so-called “zombie virus.” 

The “zombie virus” refers to ancient viruses frozen in the Arctic that scientists say could one day be exposed to the modern world due to global warming and increased Siberian shipping activity, according to a report by The Guardian.

Debunked: The YouTube channel that posted the claim has been repeatedly fact-checked by Rappler:

– Kyle Marcelino/

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at You may also report dubious claims to the #FactsFirstPH tipline by messaging Rappler on Facebook or Newsbreak via Twitter direct message. You may also report through our Viber fact check chatbot. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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