Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates warned on Friday that the world was vulnerable to a deadly epidemic of an illness like flu, with the recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks underlining weaknesses in global efforts to tackle health crises swiftly.
Gates, whose foundation invests in improving healthcare in developing countries, said the global emergency response system was not strong enough and the ability to create new drugs and vaccines quickly was lacking.
‘Bill Gates is hoping the human race can make it through the next decade without any serious epidemics because otherwise we could be in a bit of trouble.’
The billionaire Microsoft founder turned disease-fighting philanthropist dedicates his time to eradicating diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and others. But while he has enjoyed commendable success in that pursuit, he has his doubts about how the world can handle a potential pandemic.
“There’s a lot of discussion right now about how do we respond in an emergency, how do we make sure the regulatory, and liability, and organisational boundaries don’t slow us down there,” he told.
He added that there needed to be more focus on developing treatments for likely epidemics.
“I cross my fingers all the time that some epidemic like a big flu doesn’t come along in the next 10 years,” Microsoft Corp founder Gates told Britain’s BBC radio.
He also raised concerns over growing antimicrobial resistance to drugs, saying the success of antibiotics had created complacency.
The misuse and overuse of antibiotics is accelerating antimicrobial resistance which is already complicating efforts to treat tuberculosis, HIV and malaria.
Gates said richer countries must help developing nations tackle disease, both for humanitarian reasons and for their own self-interest.