While the threat of all-out nuclear war between Russia, the US or North Korea continues to bubble under the surface, billionaire Bill Gates says we should be much more concerned about something else.
The world’s richest man says a deadly mosquito-borne disease could wipe out as many as 10 million people if the right steps aren’t taken now. Mr Gates makes the dire warning in a new documentary, Mosquito, to be released next week on the Discovery Channel.
According to the Daily Mail, the Microsoft creator says climate change is causing mosquitos to spread beyond their normal habitats. He adds: “At the top of the list of things I worry about, the risk of a very serious pandemic is quite substantial.
“If you say what could kill 10 million people – yes, a war could, but a pandemic is probably even more likely to come and surprise us in that way.”
He claims that mosquitos pose a much higher risk than the outbreaks of Ebola in 2013-16 and SARS in 2002-03. The former caused more than 11,000 deaths in West Africa, while the latter resulted in 774 deaths across 37 countries.
Mr Gates says mosquitos pose such a threat because they can transmit a whole host of diseases and viruses including Zika, Malaria, Dengue Fever, West Nile and Chikungunya.
The 61-year-old has dedicated a huge portion of his life and salary towards fighting malaria. Last year, he joined with the UK government to collectively pledge £3 billion ($4.28b billion) over the next five years to support research efforts to eliminate the disease.
In 2015, there were nearly 300 million cases around the world, resulting in 731,000 deaths.
The philanthropist says many health organisations around the world aren’t properly prepared for an outbreak and the world can expect a pandemic in the next 10 to 15 years.
Mr Gates says that could happen naturally or as a result of bio-terrorism.
Writing for Business Insider he said: “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.
“You might be wondering how likely these doomsday scenarios really are. The fact that a deadly global pandemic has not occurred in recent history shouldn’t be mistaken for evidence that a deadly pandemic will not occur in the future.”
One of the biggest problems surrounding deadly outbreaks is that it can take up to 10 years for a vaccine to be developed and licensed for human use.
So, in order to protect humanity against a natural or manufactured disease or virus, Mr Gates says we need to improve surveillance, promote information sharing between countries and ‘prepare for epidemics the way the military prepares for war’.
Featured Image Credit: PA