Speech Summary: The next outbreak? We’re not ready— Bill Gates
Bill Gates gave a speech in 2015, saying that if anything that causes death to more than 10 million people in the next few decades, “it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a nuclear war”(Bill Gates: The next outbreak? We’re not ready: 2015). Part of the reason for that is that we have invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents. But we’ve “invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic”. We’re not ready for the next epidemic.
In 2014, the world avoided a global outbreak of Ebola. It has a total death of 10,194 people over 428 days. There were lots of tough challenges, and thanks to the heroic work of the health workers. Ebola nearly all stayed in the three West African countries, two reasons for it didn’t spread out. The first is the nature of the virus, it does not spread through the air. Second, it didn’t get into many urban areas, and that was just pure luck. “If it had gotten into a lot more urban areas, the case number would have been much larger”.
Let’s look at the model that spread through the air, like the Spanish Flu back in 1918. There are 30 million people who died from that epidemic over 263 days. It spread through the world very, very quickly. So this is a serious problem. We should all be concerned.
What are the missing key pieces for preventing an epidemic?
- “Stong health system in poor countries. That’s where mothers can give birth safely, kids can get all their vaccines”.
- “Medical reserve corps who’ve got the training and background ready to go”.
- “Pair those medical people with the military. Taking the advantage of the military’s ability to move fast”.
- Advance R&D in areas of vaccine and diagnostic.
The best lesson to learn is that there’s no need to panic. “But we need to get going because time is not on our side”. “I don’t have an exact budget for what these things would cost, but I’m quite sure that it is modest compared to the potential harm”. “If we start now, we can be ready”.