By Alyssa M, Franklin and Marshall College
The Walking Dead, World War Z, I am Legend. We have all seen movies or heard of the concept of a virus that infects the population, spreads like wildfire, kills millions of people, and turns them into zombies. But could this actually happen in our world today?
On Saturday, February 18th, 2017, Bill Gates spoke at the Munich Security Conference in Germany about the increasing threat of bioterrorism and precautions that should be taken to prevent it. Gates stated: “Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year,” (Wattles). Gates predicts that the world could see an act of bioterrorism in as little as ten to fifteen years. He also pointed out that the last major naturally occurring epidemic flu outbreak in 1918 wiped out 50 to 100 million people. Bioterrorism is a very real threat to our society and it must be addressed before it is too late.
The United States should take precautions with regard to bioterrorism for three reasons:
First, in our modern society, terrorism rates are higher than ever, and terrorist groups such as ISIS are constantly recruiting members and trying to find new weapons to wipe out exorbitant amounts of people. An article from the Washington Post reinforces this point by describing how easy it is to create these deadly viruses. According to Gates, “It would be relatively easy to engineer a new flu strain by combining a version that spreads quickly with one that kills quickly. Unlike a nuclear war, such a disease would not stop killing once released,” (Selk). Hence, bioterrorism is a constant threat for which the United States must prepare.
Second, the amount of people that bio-terrorist attacks could wipe out is far more than nuclear warfare. Thus, the effects of a bio-terrorist attacks are on a much bigger scale and should take precedence for funding.
Lastly, the United States didn’t imagine or plan for a full scale terrorist attack until after the September 11, 2001 attacks. This begs the question: could a bio-terrorist attack be the next 9/11? Gates notes, “Two years into Barack Obama’s presidency, a congressional panel gave the government an ‘F’ in preparedness,” (Selk). If the United States does not take the proper safety precautions and starts funding preventative measures for bio-terrorist attacks, the United States could face devastating loss.
Therefore, as Bill gates states: “We need a new arsenal of weapons, antiviral drugs, antibodies, vaccines and new diagnostics.” The United States must prepare for an attack of this sort before the damage is irreversible.
Source: Gates, Bill. “BILL GATES: A new kind of terrorism could wipe out 30 million people in less than a year – and we are not prepared.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Feb. 2017. <http://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-op-ed-bio-terrorism-epidemic-world-threat-2017-2 >.
Source: Selk, Avi. “Bill Gates: Bioterrorism could kill more than nuclear war – but no one is ready to deal with it.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Feb. 2017. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/02/18/bill-gates-bioterrorism-could-kill-more-than-nuclear-war-but-no-one-is-ready-to-deal-with-it/?utm_term=.804d205d263b >.
Source: Wattles, Jackie. “Bill Gates warns the world to prep for bio-terrorism.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2017. <http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/18/technology/bill-gates-bio-terrorism/index.htm l>.
Word Count: 443