Not missiles, microbes: Bill Gates had warned the world of an epidemic 5 yrs ago

The 64-year-old said that the world had invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic.

Reuters
In a 2015 TED Talks video, Gates emphasised on the need to be prepared for an epidemic.
Bill Gates, who on Friday night hung up his boots, stepping down from the board of Microsoft Technologies that he had founded in April of 1975 to channel his energies towards philanthropy, has long been talking about improving healthcare around the world - one of the many causes his foundation works for.

And today as the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic, a 2015-TED talk video of the 64-year-old has once again gone viral.

The tech titan starts the video talking about how when he was a kid, the disaster he was worried about most was a nuclear war, saying, “we had a barrel in the basement filled with cans of food and water” just in case things got bad.


However, in the years since, Gates said that the greatest risk of a global catastrophe doesn't look like that anymore.

“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades it's highly likely to be a highly-infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, microbes.”

Gates said that part of the reason for this shift was because “we've invested highly in nuclear deterrents, but we've invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic.”
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He also goes on to add: “We are not ready for the next epidemic.”

Citing Ebola as an example, one of the world’s richest men said that the problem wasn't that there was a system that didn't work, the problem was that there was no system at all.

“The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola,” he emphasised on the urgent need to act, five years before the novel coronavirus became a reality.

In an almost Nostradamus-like statement, Gates went on to add that the next virus might be such that “people feel well enough while they are infectious that they get on a plane or they go to a market.” A description that bears a stark similarity to the Covid-19.
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To further explain how deadly this could be, Gates took his audience back to 1918, citing the example of the Spanish flu, the deadliest in human history, as a virus that could spread through the air.

These lessons learnt from history are reason why we need to prepare for an epidemic just as we do for wars.
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Some of the measures of preparedness that Gates said the world requires include a strong healthcare system in poor countries, a reserve medical corps, a system to pair medical personnel with the military, germ games, and lots of advanced R&D.

And as far as the money involved, he said it couldn’t be close to what such a situation would cost humanity.

He then highlighted a figure by the World Bank that estimated global wealth to go down by over 3 trillion dollars in such an epidemic. In addition to the millions and millions of deaths.

But the silver lining, Gates said, was that “the Ebola epidemic can serve as a wake-up call.”

As the world battles a similar epidemic in today's time, here's the video of Gates's talk to watch as you follow social distancing.


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