Bill Gates is worried the world isn't ready for a pandemic outbreak of the flu -- What are your odds of dying in the next one?
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Bill Gates is worried that the world is ill prepared to respond to a flu pandemic, should one occur. Doctors believe it is only a matter of time before the next major flu pandemic strikes. What are your odds of death?
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) -- Bill Gates has warned he thinks the world is ill prepared to combat a major flu pandemic. Gates has spent part of his fortune fighting diseases around the world.
Speaking on the Today Programme in England, Gates told Dame Sally Davies, who is the Chief Medical Officer for England, "When we've seen Ebola or even now Zika, we realize we still haven't done enough... We don't have a strong enough system." He added, "I cross my fingers all the time that some epidemic like a big flu doesn't come along in the next 10 years."
Gates' timing is close to the 100 year anniversary of the Spanish Flu Pandemic that emerged in January 1918 and raged around the globe for two years. Within those two years, it killed between three to six percent of the world's population, or between 50 to 100 million people. These fatalities were much more than the 17 million killed in World War I, which ended in November of 1918 after four years of mass slaughter.
The Spanish Flu mutated from a more benign version of the flu, although nobody is certain of its origins. It is universally agreed that the war was likely an exacerbating factor.
The Spanish Flu pandemic is likely the deadliest outbreak of disease the world has ever seen since the Black Death of the 14th century.
As the world population grows, and densities increase, particularly in places like China, the chances of mutated flu strains developing deadly mutations increases. Eventually, a new strain of the flu can take root in a population and spread.
Because the disease might be indistinguishable from a cold in the early stages, victims may spread the germs though travel. Of course, there is a key difference, many victims of this disease will die.
Doctors say it is only a matter of when, and not if, this will happen again. In the century since, smaller flu pandemics have erupted, but all with fewer fatalities.
Chances are in such an outbreak, your odds of death would be a little less than a century ago, assuming the disease were equally deadly. Perhaps 1 to 3 in a hundred people could die. However, if a disease is even more powerful than the Spanish Flu, that number could rise. The world's deadliest diseases have lethality rates that exceed ninety percent. Such diseases are called "slate wipers" because they can literally wipe the planet clean of humanity.
Early detection, quarantine, and the rapid development of a treatment program and vaccine will be essential. But there will be barriers. Not only to response plans need to be developed, what happens when people choose not to participate? What happens to people who refuse the vaccinate their children?
This is what Bill Gates is talking about when he says we need to improve our systems. We need to be able to recognize the disease quickly and minimize or stop its spread while developing a cure.
The first step to accomplishing this plan is to recognize that such an outbreak will occur again, and developing plans now to deal with it.
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