Speaking at an International Security Conference in Munich, Germany, the founder of Microsoft founder told the audience that there is a real threat that terrorist groups could weaponize the deadly Smallpox virus. He said that such a development would put the lives of tens of millions of persons at risk world-wide. Gates went on to say that the impact of deadly viruses such as smallpox, should they spread, could be worse than that of a nuclear attack.
Gates delivered his scary warning ahead of a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London (RUSI). According to Gates, the world is in grave danger from underestimating the potential threat of lethal respiratory viruses, as they are becoming easier to re-create and spread. The Microsoft founder told the group: “We ignore the link between health security and international security at our peril.”
“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.” Gates, a philanthropist who has spent the last 20 years funding a global health campaign, said that epidemiologists claim there is a “reasonable possibility” of an epidemic outbreak occurring in the next 10 to 15 years.
As advances in molecular biology have moved forward at a record pace over the last five years, concerns over the growing possibility of bio-terrorist attacks have increased among security specialists. So far, according to both the British and US intelligence services, we have been lucky. They have warned that ISIS in particular has been trying to make biological weapons in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, even though they have downplayed the actual threat.
It is the contention of most intelligence agencies that terrorist groups simply does not have people with the necessary skills to create such weapons, nor do they believe that they could be developed under the conditions that exist in a war zone. But Bill Gates says the threat of a pandemic must be taken seriously. “It’s hard to get your mind around a catastrophe of that scale, but it happened not that long ago. In 1918, a particularly virulent and deadly strain of flu killed between 50 million and 100 million people.”
Gates warned: “You might be wondering how real 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.” “And even if the next pandemic isn’t on the scale of the 1918 flu, we would be wise to consider the social and economic turmoil that might ensue if something like Ebola made its way into urban centers.”
Gates offered possible preparations governments could take to avert such a crisis: “This includes germ games and other preparedness exercises, so we can better understand how diseases will spread, how people will respond in a panic, and how to deal with things like overloaded highways and communications systems.”