Bill Gates warns of risk of global pandemic
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Bill Gates has called on world leaders to do more to prevent future pandemics and for the need for greater sharing of information and a faster response. As some parts of the world are going back to normal life, he says the risk of an outbreak leading to a pandemic similar to the one experienced with coronavirus is higher. The next outbreak could be sooner than we think, Mr Gates warned.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “The risk is there every year, and it’s definitely going up as people are travelling the world more, as climate change causes species to seek new habitats, as the population grows – particularly in Asia and Africa breeds.
“We’re invading more natural habitats.
“It’s very unlikely that we’ll go 20 more years without another outbreak that has the chance of becoming another pandemic.”
Outbreaks, like in the case of coronavirus, happen when a virus jumps from an animal to a human without the right immunity to protect itself.
Other outbreaks include Ebola in West Africa and AIDS in the United States in the 1980s. Both these viruses still live on despite decades of research and some have re-emerged in more viral forms.
Mr Gates continued: “This pandemic is not totally over. We could have a surprise variant. I don’t think there’s a high probability. But yes, people are ready for this one to end – no doubt.
“Hopefully, they keep in mind how awful it’s been so that we take the reasonably modest measures that are required to reduce the chance of it happening again.”
However, the risk of a more severe coronavirus is “not likely”, he says, as virus replication and the following variants usually tend to be weaker.
Praising the vaccine efficacy, Bill Gates said: “We have a lot of immunity.
“The variants escape some of that immunity – particularly if we get the elderly to keep up to date on boosters, then the amount of severe disease and deaths are dramatically less.
“They’re not perfect at blocking infections but they do reduce infections.
“And so, it’s unfortunate when somebody’s health concerns are so extreme that they feel they can’t participate in that community protection.”
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To mitigate the risks of another variant from popping up or another virus outbreak, Bill Gates is urging world leaders to prepare for future pandemics through a health body at the World Health Organization that would constantly be monitoring potential virus outbreaks for a quicker response.
“The idea of building a global group that I call GERM for Global Epidemic Response and Mobilisation at that WHO level isn’t yet a consensus”, Bill Gates added.
“But the debate is beginning. My book, I think, will help kick off that debate.
“I’d love to see in the next year that funded because the cost is pretty small and yet that’s the special group that will make sure we practice and have dramatically less impact.”
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