“When I was a kid, the disaster we worried about most was a nuclear war,” Bill Gates introduces in his 2015 TED Talk. The idea of a worldwide epidemic has always been credited to weapons of mass destruction and violence. Years later we realize this is not the case. “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next decade, it is most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war—not missiles, but microbes,” Gates continues. In this video, Bill Gates supports his claim with facts stating why the world is not properly prepared—both financially and professionally.
Gates refers to the Ebola outbreak and the lack of structure to handle or prepare the medical field. In the video, he shares alternatives on how the Ebola spread could have been better approached if there were a system in place. Gates urges, “the failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola.”
Approximately 10,000 people died from Ebola. This is significantly less than the predictions he later makes for COVID-19. Some of the reasons why Ebola curbed so quickly was due to the following, according to Gates:
- Heroic work by volunteer health workers
- Nature of Ebola does not spread through the air and symptoms are obvious to the point of being bedridden.
- Ebola remained in rural areas. If it had gotten in urban areas, the spread would have been more rapid.
In reference to COVID-19, Gates continues, “Next time we might not be so lucky. You can have a virus where people feel well enough while they’re infectious that they get on a plane or go to a market. The source of the virus could be a natural epidemic or it could be bioterrorism.” This is rather specific for a prediction made by someone who had the potential to start preparing for the outbreak upon recognition. Why wasn’t action taken sooner, especially after the lessons learned following the Ebola outbreak?
After showing a simulation graphic predicting up to 33 million deaths worldwide, Gates offers a few solutions including technology, health professionals on standby, and tools to make treatments for illnesses.
According to Inc, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed up to $100 million to the global effort to respond to COVID-19. The foundation will also commit an additional $5 million to the greater Seattle region as well as providing at-home test kits for the coronavirus. This is a great solution to a problem. However, due to his accurate prediction, it is surprising that nothing was done beforehand to serve as preventative/preparedness measures.
A Dean Koontz novel written in 1981 predicted the outbreak of the coronavirus! pic.twitter.com/bjjqq6TzOl
— Nick Hinton (@NickHintonn) February 16, 2020
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