Queen Victorias mourning dress among items in Disease X exhibition

Queen Victoria\s mourning dress among items in Disease X exhibition
Disease X: Scientists on the hunt for next epidemic – and it could wipe out THOUSANDS
The tiny black silk and crepe dress was made for the diminutive queen in 1892 following the death of Prince Albert Victor, known as Prince Eddy, who was 28 and second in line to the throne when he was struck by the illness a month before his wedding.

His death changed the course of history and showed that even the most privileged could succumb to disease, according to Vyki Sparkes, co-curator of the exhibition, Disease X, which opens later this month at the Museum of London.

But it also changed the way epidemics were seen. Influenza, before that, was seen as not very serious. This really drove home that influenza was a serious and virulent disease.

The princes younger brother would go on to inherit the throne as George V, the present Queens grandfather.

The exhibition has been staged to mark the centenary of the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic, which killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide.

While London has been hit by epidemics for millennia, Sparkes said, the exhibitions name reflected the fact that even sophisticated modern cities were still vulnerable to possible disease epidemics.

Earlier this year the World Health Organisation added Disease X to its list of the top 10 priority diseases to research. And the reason they did that was they wanted to recognise that one of the biggest risks to life from an epidemic might be from something that has never been known to cause death before, she said.

The idea was that you need to have models and systems in place so you are prepared for the outbreak of a disease. Its not just the ones you know about, its the ones you dont know about.

Other exhibits, many of which have not previously been displayed, include a 17th-century gold pomander, carried in the hope that the herbs it contained could ward off the plague. A large poster from the early 20th century advertises a product called Flu-Mal as a cure for both influenza and malaria, from just a shilling and three pence per bottle.

What do they tell us about Disease X? asked Sparkes. They tell us that we might not have the remedies.

Other artefacts will illustrate the success stories of the fight against disease, she said. As well as the skeleton of an infant who died in the early 19th century from smallpox, now globally eradicated, the exhibition will also include some examples of the drug PrEP, which is given to HIV-negative people to reduce their risk of contracting the disease and which Public Health England has said could contribute to the future elimination of HIV and Aids in the UK.

The hypothesised Disease X has the potential to creep up on humanity and wipe out large swathes of the population in a similar fashion to the Spanish Flu, which killed off five percent of the global population, and Russian Flu, which wiped out a million Europeans.

Earlier this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Disease X is one of the great potential risks to life and a top priority for research.

Scientists have made strides in trying to uncover the unknown and discovered two new viruses in Myanmarese bats.The viruses which were discovered belonged to the coronavirus family which have already caused two outbreaks on Earth.

The other is the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) which has a 35 percent mortality rate and was first identified in 2012.

Marc Valitutto, a wildlife vet with Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Global Health Program, said: “Our goal is to look for a pandemic virus, a virus that has the potential to have high mortality.”

He adds that the next diseases will likely come from Asia or Africa as these are the places where humans are most rapidly destroying the environment.

He said: “We are seeing once pristine forests under threat for increased development, which brings wildlife in these areas in close contact with humans.