Bill Gates warned that bioterrorism could kill 30 million people in less than an year and is much more dangerous than a nuclear war.
He has shared his thoughts with the media prior to addressing the world leaders during the 53rd Munich Security Conference held from 17 to 19 February. Even though the focus of his philanthropic work is global health, he believes that it is very closely related to international security policy as genetic engineering has opened a new door to terrorist groups. It is relatively easy to turn biological viruses into weapons without the need of extensive knowledge, and according to Bill Gates the governments are neither paying sufficient attention to this possibility nor are prepared to cope with it.
In front of the media, the richest man in the world, said that
“Natural epidemics can be extremely large. Intentionally caused epidemics, bioterrorism, would be the largest of all.“With nuclear weapons, you’d think you would probably stop after killing 100 million. Smallpox won’t stop. Because the population is naïve, and there are no real preparations. That, if it got out and spread, would be a larger number.”
He also warned that war zones or fragile states are the most vulnerable places as epidemics are most likely to begin there as we saw with Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and with cholera in the Congo Basin and the Horn of Africa. However, the next epidemic can be unleashed by a terrorist using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of smallpox virus or of the flu.
Therefore, we need to prepare fighting both naturally occurring pandemics and intentional biological attacks by taking the appropriate steps such as investing in vaccine innovation.