Bill Gates made his prediction clear at the Munich Security Conference, where he warned the audience that terrorists might start using biotechnology to spread a dangerous ‘super virus’, which may become the next worldwide epidemic.
Gates stated “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.”
“Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of the 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.”
Gates also suggested that people underestimate the link between international security and health security and also on how the government do not pay any attention to this possible threat.
The audience was also reminded of the 1918 flu epidemic which infected over 500 million people and killed between 50-100 million lives. Gates expanded “Most of the things we need to do 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.”
Gates believes that preparation could decrease the risks as he states “prepare for epidemics the way the military prepares for war,” for example the creation of a medical ‘arsenal weapons’ as security against epidemics. He also states the need for people to understand viruses’ behaviours; therefore, they can spot them at an early stage. He added the idea that failure to prepare for such risks could cost up to £435 billion annually.
Gates has previously voiced his concerns about bio-terrorism in January at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Also when speaking to BBC radio, he mentioned the risks of human vulnerabilities to fast-spreading diseases.