view counter

BioterrorismTerrorists could kill 30 million people within a year using bioweapons: Bill Gates

Published 21 February 2017

Bill Gates, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference, compared the dangers to nuclear war and bioterrorism. “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,” he said. “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 thirty million people in less than a year.”

Bill Gates, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference, compared the dangers to nuclear war and bioterrorism. “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,” he said.

“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 thirty 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 ten to fifteen years.”

The Washington Post reports that  Gates argued the link between health security and international security is overlooked, and criticized governments for failing to pay attention to such threats.

He reminded the conference of the scale of the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed up to 100 million people and infected almost half a billion others, according to estimates.

He added: “Most of the things we need to do to protect against a naturally occurring pandemic are the same things we must prepare for an intentional biological attack.

“I view the threat of deadly pandemics right up there with nuclear war and climate change,” he said. “We ignore the link between health security and international security at our own peril.”

Gates stressed that adequate preparation could mitigate the risk of an epidemic.

He said the development of a medical “arsenal of new weapons” could be used to counter such a threat and that governments must “prepare or epidemics the way the military does for war.”

Gates also argued that reducing the time taken to create vaccines, along with surveillance and cooperation, are vital steps to preventing a pandemic — and that failure to prepare could cost hundreds of billions of dollars to recover.

The Post notes that Gates has warned about bioterrorism in the past. In January, he gave a speech on the issue at the World Economic Forum in Sweden, and in December he talked with BBC radio about human vulnerabilities to fast-spreading diseases.