Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has warned that the world that health organisations are not ready for a flu pandemic. Mr Gates has been working with health organisations for some time. His foundation has pumped millions into health programmes around the globe.
Mr Gates pointed to Ebola and Zika viruses which have emerged over the last few years, warning that they exposed serious weaknesses in our ability to tackle health emergencies.
In 1918 a major flu pandemic killed fifty million people worldwide.
He said, “I cross my fingers all the time that some epidemic like a big flu doesn’t come along in the next ten years.
“I do think we’ll have much better medical tools, much better response, but we are a bit vulnerable right now if something that spread very quickly, like say a flu that was quite fatal.
“That would be a tragedy, and new approaches should allow us to reduce that risk a lot. ‘When we’ve seen Ebola or even now Zika, we realise we still haven’t done enough.
“Our ability to create new drugs and vaccines quickly where we have an emerging disease, our emergency response system where we get people in and try and stop these epidemics – we don’t have a strong enough system.
“There is a lot of discussion right about how do we respond in an emergency, and do we make sure that the regulatory, liability and organisational boundaries do not slow us down.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) came under fire for its handling of the Ebola virus which killed 11,000 people in West Africa in December 2013.
An independent panel concluded that failures in technical judgement and leadership were apparent during the outbreak, stating that it took too long to take action against the virus.
Mr Gates added, “If we don’t get involved these epidemics will come into our countries.
“So it’s not just the humanitarian goal here, it’s strong self-interest that we want global health security.”