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25M Killed by Pandemic 2022 to 2031

Healthy Communities Biosecurity Tournament


The WHO reported over 6.3 million deaths from COVID-19 as of early June 2022. The true death toll is likely much higher than official records, according to excess mortality figures. One model by The Economist estimates 21.2 million deaths due to COVID-19 as of late May 2022. Excess deaths are calculated by comparing the total deaths reported from all causes to how many deaths would be expected given data from recent years.

While COVID-19 will continue to impact humanity indefinitely, infectious disease experts are concerned that another pandemic could emerge at anytime.

There are a variety of factors that could might make a novel pandemic likely, including:

The purpose of this question is to understand the likelihood of a novel pandemic occurring in the coming decade.

Will there be a novel pathogen that kills over 25 million people between 2022 and 2031 (inclusive)?

This question will resolve as Yes if at least 25 million people have died from an infectious pathogen (excluding SARS-CoV-2 and its descendants) from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2031, according to excess mortality figures compiled by what Metaculus judges to be the most credible of following sources:

  • The World Health Organisation (or its successor)

  • Credible media reports/models

  • Academic studies/models

If there are several reports/models judged credible by Metaculus admins, the resolution will be determined by the median of the reported deaths.

Variants of pathogens currently causing human disease, such as variants of SARS-CoV-2, do not count — with no exceptions. However, novel pathogens that are the result of antigenic shift do count. Among pathogens that cause human disease, antigenic shift is currently only known to occur with influenza A and this process is described by the US CDC as an "abrupt, major change in a flu A virus, resulting in new HA and/or new HA and NA proteins in flu viruses that infect humans". Contrast this with antigenic drift, which is the mechanism that produces variants for pathogens like SARS-CoV-2.

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