Bill Gates: Are We Ready for a Virus Outbreak?


Bill Gates: Are We Ready for a Virus Outbreak?

Recently, the epidemic of new-type coronavirus pneumonia has continued to spread in the country, and many people have "talked about viral discoloration." A 2016 speech by Bill Gates was very forward-looking on the prevention of the virus epidemic, and he also made some preliminary suggestions.

Speech Record:

When I was a kid, the disaster we were most worried about was nuclear war. So we have a tube like this in the basement, filled with canned food and water. When the nuclear war broke out, we would hide in the basement, squat down and live on that package.

The greatest danger of today's global catastrophe no longer looks like this. In fact, it will look like this. If something can kill tens of millions of people in the next few decades, it is more likely to be a highly contagious virus than a war. Not missiles, but microbes. Part of the reason is because we bet a lot of energy and money on nuclear deterrence. But we have invested very little in systems to prevent the outbreak. We are not ready to prevent the next epidemic.

Let's look at the Ebola virus. I believe that everyone has read such news in the newspaper, and it is full of many difficult challenges. Using our case study tool to track the elimination of polio (poliomyelitis), I carefully track the development of this virus. With the development of the epidemic, we can see that the problem is not that we do not have a system that can be used, but that we do not have any system at all. In fact, we can see that there are several obvious shortcomings.

We could not find a group of prepared epidemiologists who could go to the epidemic area to see the pathology and disease development. The cases were reported on paper. It was too late when the information was posted, and it was also very inaccurate. We also couldn't find a trained healthcare team. We don't have a way to keep people waiting.

At present, MSF has made a great contribution to mobilizing volunteers. But even so, the speed at which we mobilized thousands of workers to the affected areas was very unsatisfactory. A large epidemic would require us to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people, but none of us is studying the direction of treatment.

No one is looking at the method of diagnosis. No one is thinking about what tools to use. For example, we may be able to take the blood of the survivors and, after treatment, inject the plasma into the body to protect people who are not sick. But this method has never been tried,

So there are many things that have not been done before. And this is indeed a global failure. The purpose of the World Health Organization is to monitor the epidemic, not to do what I just said. But the plot in the movie is another story. A group of very handsome epidemiologists are ready to go to the affected area to save everyone, but this is a pure Hollywood plot.

Our inadequate preparation could lead to the next outbreak, which is more serious than the Ebola virus. Let us look at the development of Ebola virus in the past year. About 10,000 people died, and all the dead were in three countries in West Africa. There are three reasons why it has not spread.

The first is a lot of heroic deeds made by health workers. They found many patients and prevented more people from getting sick. The second is the nature of the virus. Ebola is not transmitted by air. By the time you have enough contagion, most people are already sick in bed. The third is because the virus did not reach the urban area. This is pure luck. If the virus reaches urban areas, the death toll will definitely not stop there.

So next time we may not be so lucky. Some viruses may leave you unaware, but when infected people take a plane or go to a shopping mall, they are already infectious. In addition, the source of the virus can be natural, such as Ebola virus, or it can be generated by biological terrorist attacks. So the virus that can make the outbreak thousands of times exists.

In fact, let's look at a model of a virus that is transmitted by the air, like the Spanish flu of 1918. The epidemic is likely to develop like this: the virus will spread to the world at a rapid rate. You can see that 30 million people worldwide have died from this disease. This is a very serious problem. We should never ignore it.

Spanish Flu Simulation 1918

But in fact we can build a good response system. We can make use of all the technologies and sciences that have developed to this day. We can use mobile phones to collect and publish information. We have satellite maps to see where people are moving and where they are going. We have also made progress in biology, which can significantly shorten the time we find the pathogen, and can find antidote and vaccine in a short time. So we have tools, but these tools must be integrated into a global health system. In addition, we must be ready.

And the best example of how we prepare is from preparing for war. For soldiers, they are ready to go to war anytime, anywhere. We also have reserve soldiers, which can greatly increase the number of people preparing for war. NATO has a mobile team that can move quickly.

There are many NATO war games to test whether the personnel are trained? Do they know the fuel, supply and the same radio frequency? If so, then they are ready. These are the things we should prepare for in the face of an epidemic.

Virus Outbreak as Bill Says

What are the key projects? 

First, there must be a developed health system in poor countries. Mothers can have children safely, and children can be vaccinated. We can also detect outbreaks at an early stage.

We need a reserve medical unit: there are many trained professionals who are always ready to take their expertise to the affected area. We can use the army to cooperate with medical personnel, and take advantage of the rapid movement of the army to carry out logistics and maintain security.

We also need to do some scenario simulations, not war games but germ games to see where the defense loopholes are. The last germ game was played in the United States. It was in 2001, and it didn't go well. At present, the germs get one point for humans.

Finally, we need a lot of research and development in vaccines and pathology. In some aspects, such as adeno-associated viruses, we have made considerable breakthroughs, which can take effect in a short period of time.

I don't have a clear budget for how much this will cost, but I'm sure it will be cheaper than a loss. According to World Bank estimates, if we have an influenza outbreak, the global economy could lose more than $ 3 trillion. We could also have millions of deaths.

Compared to just being ready, these additional investments can bring significant benefits. Basic health care and research and development can promote the balanced development of global health and make the world healthier and safer.

So I think this is very important. Urgently. No need to panic. We don't need to hoard noodles or hide in the basement, but we must catch up because time is limited.

In fact, if there is any positive effect of this Ebola virus outbreak, it is that the alarm has been sounded early so that we can wake up and be prepared. If we start preparing immediately, we can be ready before the next outbreak.

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