MUNICH — Recent advances in technology make bioterrorism a greater threat than nuclear warfare – one that could rapidly wipe out 30 million of even hundreds of millions of people around the world, billionaire Bill Gates says.
And the U.S. and other countries, he says, are not prepared.
Speaking to The Telegraph newspaper prior to a conference in German, Gates said it would be possible for terrorists to create a bioweapon that can kill more people than would nuclear weapons.
“It doesn’t take much biology expertise nowadays to assemble a smallpox virus,” Gates said. “Biology is making it way easier to create these things.”
Developments in genetic engineering would make it possible for terrorists to engineer a virus capable of creating a pandemic, Gates said.
“With nuclear weapons, you’d think you would probably stop after killing 100 million. Smallpox won’t stop,” he said. “Because the population is naïve, and there are no real preparations. That, if it got out and spread, would be a larger number.”
Bioterrorism can kill far more people than natural epidemics, he said.
“Intentionally caused epidemics, bioterrorism, would be the largest of all,” he said.
It also is possible to reengineer the common flu virus to create a deadly influenza strain capable of causing a pandemic, Gates said. He believes that such a pandemic would spread like wildfire.
He told conference attendees, “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. And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10 to 15 years.”
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