gloved hand holding Disease X blood test in vile in front of white background

Saiful52/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Why conspiracy theorists are freaking out about ‘Disease X’

There’s just one problem: There is no Disease X. Not yet, at least.


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Jan 23, 2024   Updated on Jan 23, 2024, 1:25 pm CST

In each edition of web_crawlr we have exclusive original content every day. On Mondays our Tech Reporter Mikael Thalen debunks the most wild conspiracy theories swirling around the web in his “One Dumb Conspiracy” column. If you want to read columns like this before everyone else, subscribe to web_crawlr to get your daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

Conspiracy theorists are freaking out online over “Disease X,” a new contagion concocted by the global elite that will be used to kill millions!

Except, not really.

Over the past two weeks, hysterical claims have circulated on social media that the disease will soon reach the U.S., leading to a worldwide lockdown and the rise of a global government.

A social media account for the debunked anti-vax film “Died Suddenly” claimed last Monday that Disease X had already begun ravaging China.

“Reports out of China are saying that a new disease X is emerging with a 100% kill rate on the lab tested mice,” the account tweeted. “At the same time, China is assembling mobile crematoriums. How do you interpret this?”

In another post, a former Republican politician said that Disease X was part of a sinister plot “to destroy more freedoms” on behalf of “unelected globalists.”

Others argued that Disease X was being released in order to stop Donald Trump from becoming the next president.

But there’s just one problem: There is no Disease X. Not yet, at least.

What is Disease X?

Disease X is a term that was coined in 2017 by the World Health Organization. It is a placeholder name for a hypothetical pathogen that could lead to the next pandemic.

In the wake of COVID-19, health experts across the globe are rushing to prepare for another such incident, not because they are secretly planning it, but because deadly pandemics are a guaranteed part of life on this planet.

Yet the focus on Disease X last week by world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos has conspiracy theorists convinced not only that Disease X has arrived but that it was created in a lab with the sole purpose of reducing the planet’s population.

The sad reality is, based on how conspiracy theorists reacted to COVID-19, the next serious outbreak will almost certainly be downplayed and ignored by a significant number of people.

And while there is absolutely room for criticizing the response to the pandemic by some governments, the next pandemic will undoubtedly be worse given the proliferation of misinformation.

So, for now, Disease X isn’t actually a known disease. 

Why it matters

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented wave of misinformation regarding not only the disease itself but the vaccine as well. 

A future pandemic could prove even more devastating thanks to conspiracy theorists who will surely believe that a new virus is either part of a sinister plot or a hoax altogether. 

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*First Published: Jan 23, 2024, 6:00 am CST