Five years ago, in a TedTalk talk, Bill Gates issued a warning about a dangerous pandemic that could kill “millions of people”.
It is worth noting that Bill Gates not only made predictions about a global epidemic disaster, but also gave detailed instructions on how to prevent and respond to that disaster.
Below are details of his talk.
“The next disaster is a kind of VIRUS”
As a child, the disaster we feared most was nuclear war. So we kept a box in the basement, filled with cans, water cans and food inside. If a nuclear war occurs, we will go down to the basement, crouch down and eat the food stored in the bin.
But today the global disaster is most at risk not so. It could be a virus. If anything would cost the lives of more than 10 million people over the next few decades, it would most likely be a high-speed virus rather than a war. Not a rocket but a microorganism.
Part of the reason is that we have invested a large amount of money to prevent the kernel but have invested very little in the disease prevention system, we are not ready for the next pandemic.
Just look at the Ebola pandemic, there are many difficult challenges. I have been following this pandemic through situational analysis tools we use to monitor the progress of polio eradication.
When looking at what’s going on, the problem is not having an inefficient working system, the problem is not having any systems at all.
In fact, many important elements are missing. We do not have a team of epidemiologists who should go to the epidemic area, learn about the disease, see how far it has spread. We only read the case report on paper. It takes a long time for information to be published online, and is extremely inaccurate. We do not have a ready medical team, no manpower prepared method. The Doctors Without Borders has coordinated volunteers very well. But even so, we should have acted much faster in bringing thousands of employees to countries where the disease was endemic.
More than 10,000 people have died from the Ebola epidemic.
During a major pandemic, we will need hundreds of thousands of people to operate. During the Ebola outbreak, no one considered treatment options. No people studied symptoms. No one has figured out which tool to use. For example, we could have taken survivors’ blood, processed samples, and transfusions of finished plasma to protect the body. But no one does those things.
It is truly a global failure. WHO is funded to control the disease, not to do what I just said.
In movies it’s different. There will be a group of handsome epidemiologists on the road, into the epidemic region, saving the world, but that’s only in Hollywood.
Failure to prevent it can make the next disease more destructive than Ebola. Look at the development of the Ebola epidemic in the past year. About 10,000 people have died, mostly in three East African countries.
There are 3 reasons why it doesn’t spread anymore. The first is that many health workers do courageous jobs. They look for sick people and prevent infection. The second is the nature of the virus. Ebola virus is not spread by air. And when infected, almost all infected people are bedridden. Third, the disease is not spread in many urban areas. It was just luck. If the epidemic spreads in more urban areas, the number of infections will be much greater.
Next time we may not be so lucky. We may encounter a virus that, when infected, still feels healthy enough to fly or go to the market. The source of the virus may be a natural pandemic like Ebola. Or maybe a biological terrorist.
Well, there are factors that make a thousand times worse situation. Take a look at a model of a virus that spreads in the air, like the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. It will happen like this: The virus spread around the world extremely, extremely fast. You can see, more than 30 million people have died from the pandemic. So this is a serious problem.
30 million people died from the Spanish flu pandemic 1918.
What is the solution?
We need to care. In fact, we can build quality response systems. We benefit from science and technology. We have mobile phones, to collect information from the community and give information to them. We have satellite maps to see where people are and where to go. We have a lot of biological progress that can significantly change the turnaround time to study pathogens and can make drugs and vaccines that fit that pathogen. We have the tools, but they need to be put into the global health system.
We need to be prepared. In my opinion, the best lesson on how to prepare again, is what we do for the war. We have regular soldiers ready to go. We have a reserve force, a great human resource. Nato has a mobile unit that can be deployed quickly. Nato conducts many exercises to check if they are well trained. Do they understand the same fuel and logistics and radio frequencies? They are always ready to go.
That’s what we need to do to cope with the disease. But what is the core good.
Firstly, we need strong health systems in poor countries. There mothers can give birth safely, children are fully vaccinated. But in the same place we will see disease outbreaks very soon. We need preventive medicine teams, many of whom have been trained and have a background, who are skilled and ready to go.
Next we need to send the military with the medical team, leveraging its capabilities to move quickly, provide logistics, and protect the areas. We need to build simulation models, train microorganisms, not drills, to see where the flaw is. The most recent training in microbiology simulation in the US was in 2001 and the situation was not very good. So far the results are: bacteria: 1 – human: 0.
Finally, we need to conduct more advanced research and development in the field of vaccines and diagnostics. There have been many major breakthroughs, such as the adeno conjugate virus, that can be effective very quickly. I don’t know how much it will cost, but I am sure it is a very modest number compared to the potential damage.
The World Bank estimates that if we were to experience a global flu pandemic, worldwide wealth would fall by more than 3 trillion dollars and millions of millions would die. These investments have great benefits, far ahead of preparing to face an epidemic.
Primary health care, research and development, these activities will reduce global health inequality and make the world fairer and safer. So I think that this absolutely needs to be prioritized. No need to panic. We don’t need to stock up canned food or hide in the basement.
But action is needed right away because time doesn’t wait for us. In fact, if there is only one good thing from the Ebola pandemic, it can be considered as an early warning, a call to alert, remind us to be ready. If we act now, we may be ready for the next pandemic.