Bill Gates reckons that there’s a deadly disease on its way, and that it could kill 30 million within six months. Oh, and that we should prepare for it as we would for war. Not unnerving in the slightest, is it?
In a discussion about epidemics hosted by the Massachusetts Medical Society and the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday, Gates explained that we’re not ready for such a global pandemic.
Gates said that while it’s great that we’re pulling children around the world out of poverty and making strides in eliminating diseases like polio or malaria, it’s not all good news.
“There’s one area though where the world isn’t making such progress,” he said.
“And that’s pandemic preparedness.”
With new pathogens emerging all the time, it’s also becoming worryingly easier for small groups or even individuals to create weaponised diseases, which could readily spread across the planet it no time.
Gates presented a simulation that had been created by the Institute for Disease Modeling. This showed that a new pandemic – like the one that killed 50 million people back in 1918 – would now probably kill 30 million within six months.
Gates also said it’s an issue that we’re quick to prepare for something like war, but not pandemics or global flu.
He explained that if you told governments around the world that weapons were being created that held the power to kill 30 million, there would be an obvious sense of urgency about preparing people for the threat.
“In the case of biological threats, that sense of urgency is lacking,” he said.
“The world needs to prepare for pandemics in the same serious way it prepares for war.”
Gates also said that the one time the military pitched itself against a simulated war game against a smallpox pandemic, the result was ‘smallpox one, humanity zero’.
Trying to throw a little bit of optimism our way, he did add that we’re closer to achieving a universal flu vaccine – and that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was offering $12 million grants to help its development.
However, we’re apparently not good enough at identifying the threat that a disease can pose, or getting a strong response together quickly – as proven by the recent Ebola epidemic.
Well, we couldn’t let anyone get too cheerful with all this sun now, could we? It was nice knowing you…