Bill Gates says a new type of terrorism could annihilate more than 30 million people in less than a year.
“War zones and other fragile state settings are the most difficult places to eliminate epidemics,” Gates said in an op-ed for Business Insider, which is the abridged version of a speech he will be giving at the Munich Security Conference.
“It’s also true that the next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus … or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu.” (RELATED: The Internet Has Officially Become A Domain Of Warfare)
Gates wrote that an epidemic could manifest itself from a natural anomaly, or deliberately by a terrorist, and that the effects could be catastrophic.
“Epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year. And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10-15 years,” Gates wrote.
He highlighted a not-too-distant point in history where this was a reality — the deadly flu strain in 1918 that killed approximately 50 to 100 million people.
Gates stressed that while that was nearly 100 years ago, humans should be wary of another lethal pandemic in the future.
His proposed solution, which coincides with the initiatives of his philanthropic enterprise, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is investing in vaccine innovation–what he calls “an arsenal of new weapons” known as “vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics.”
Displeased with the average time frame of 10 years to develop and license a new vaccine, Gates wrote that it should take 90 days or less.
He listed a number of ways to combat the prospects of a pandemic. Both comprehensive routine surveillance for disease outbreak and the sharing of critical information among the international community are vital for the prevention and containment of airborne pathogens, according to Gates.
“The third thing we need to do is prepare for epidemics the way the military prepares for war,” Gates writes. “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,” Gates continued, adding that trained medical personnel and coordination with the military is critical for containment procedures. (RELATED: This Woman Got Bill Gates For Secret Santa And He Really Went All Out)
The president of Microsoft, Brad Smith, said Tuesday that he worries his company and others within the tech industry will be forced into the center of future wars.
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