Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Bill Gates alerted world leaders to the clear and present danger of bio-terrorism, looming large, that could well wipe out 30 million people on the planet. Making nuclear weapons was a bigger deal than creating a genetically engineered virus, Gates said.
“We also face a new threat, the next epidemic has a good chance [of] originating on a computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus or a contagious, and highly deadly strain of flu,” he stated.
The Microsoft billionaire went on to say that according to epidemiologists any “respiratory-spread pathogen” was likely to kill over 30 million people in less than a year. “There is a reasonable probability of that taking place,” he expressed.
He said to those who matter and can make a difference, that, nothing had been done to address the almost imminent threat of bioterrorism. “We ignore the link between health security and international security at our peril,” is what he said.
The US and UK intelligence officials have acknowledged that the ISIS has been trying to make biological warfare weapons – weapons of terrorism to unleash on innocent people – at their strongholds, Syria and Iraq.
However, the agencies don’t think it is likely given that the Islamic State did not have skilled human resources, or laboratories, to support such work. Also, the chaotic surroundings in the war zone were not conducive to developing biological warfare weapons.
For the skeptic, he said that a deadly pandemic may not have occurred in recent memory but that should not lull one into thinking that it is not likely to happen again. He suggested it would be prudent to think what the social and economic impact would be if such a pandemic were to hit the world again even if it was not “on the scale of the 1918 flu.”
This is what he had to say:
“You might be wondering how real these doomsday scenarios really are. The fact that a deadly global pandemic has not occurred in recent history shouldn’t be mistaken for evidence that a deadly pandemic will not occur in the future. And even if the next pandemic isn’t on the scale of the 1918 flu, we would be wise to consider the social and economic turmoil that might ensue if something like Ebola made its way into urban centers.”
However, according to Bill Gates, not all is lost as scientific advancement made in the field of biotechnology can help develop vaccines and drugs to check the spread of such epidemic and prevent it from growing out of proportion and control. Of course, all that would require proper funding and support from governments.
“I’m optimistic that a decade from now, we can be much better prepared for a lethal epidemic if we’re willing to put a fraction of what we spend on defense budgets and new weapons systems into epidemic readiness,” he suggested.
The billionaire philanthropist urged the world leaders to treat the threat on a war footing and do what is required to control such an eventuality.
“This includes germ games and other preparedness exercises so we can better understand how diseases will spread, how people will respond in a panic and how to deal with things like overloaded highways and communications systems,” he said.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation used the services of the research company Ipsos MORI to do a Health Security Survey on behalf of the foundation and this is what the survey findings are as published on the Ipsos MORI website:
According to the survey results:
* When thinking about global health and security, 71% of Britons aged 16-75 say they are concerned about the spread of infectious diseases like Ebola, Zika and deadly strains of ‘flu on global health and security, compared to 67% who are concerned about wars with other nation states.
* 71% of Germans aged 16-70 say they are concerned about the spread of infectious diseases, compared to 73% who are concerned about wars with other nation states.
* Of all the issues asked about, violent terrorist attacks are the top concern (mentioned by 83% in the UK and 84% in Germany).
* Two-thirds (66%) of Britons and over half (55%) of Germans think it’s likely there will be another epidemic like Ebola or Zika in the next couple of years.
* 67% of Britons and 69% of Germans surveyed believe the risk of biological terror attacks is greater today than ever before.