Over the weekend, Bill Gates spoke at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, warning that more than nuclear wars, bio-terrorism will be a reality in no distant time.
According to the billionaire, the outbreak of engineered diseases would be catastrophic since “such a disease would not stop killing once released”.
Gates considers the dreadful possibility to be one of the largest existential threats the world has ever seen.
“Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, 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 to 15 years”.
Illustrating his point with a milder scenario, he says the 1918 flu outbreak naturally killed between 50 million and 100 million people. With bio-terrorism, more people will be wiped out.
“It’s time to redirect some of the money the world spends on weapons to prepare for a looming threat: terrorists with pathogens.”
The Microsoft founder went on to say that a genetically engineered virus is most likely to be invented on a computer screen.
“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.”
After his presentation at Munich, the panelists could not agree any better with him.
Peter Salama, executive director of the World Health Organization(WHO), concurred with Gate’s warnings saying that bio-terrorism is a terror threat that is around the corner.
“It’s not if, but when these events are going to occur again,”
“We need to ramp up our preparedness.”
Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway also agreed with Gates and his proposition that governments of the world should take bio-terrorism serious and begin to prepare for it.
“Disease and violence are killing fewer people than ever before, but it’s spreading more quickly,”
“We have forgotten how catastrophic those epidemics have been.”
The PM recounted a similar situation in her country’s history when over half the country’s population and according to her created a 200-year recession in Europe.
Ebola is the nearest example of a disease outbreak the world has recently seen. Gates urged world leaders to invest in “a new arsenal of weapons, antiviral drugs, antibodies, vaccines and new diagnostics,”.
What nations should be looking at now is coming up with scientific ways of detecting the outbreaks early enough and ways to come up with antidotes early enough as well. Instead of the normal 10-year span, he proposes that it will be best if they are made available in weeks.
According to Guardian, agents such as anthrax, plague and bleeding fevers such as Ebola are “potential ingredients in a bio-terrorist’s cookbook”.
Proving the suspicion right, US and UK intelligence agencies have said that Islamic State has been trying to develop biological weapons at its bases in Syria and Iraq.
An anthrax attack was also foiled in Kenya last year.