Bill Gates: We aren't ready for deadly flu pandemic

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In his annual "What I learned at work this year" letter, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said he believes the next deadly epidemic will be the flu — and humanity may not be equipped to handle it.

In the letter, Mr. Gates reflected on the issues of the last year and predicted what may happen next year. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu pandemic, which infected 500 million people worldwide and killed about 50 million, according to the CDC.

"I had hoped that hitting the 100th anniversary of this epidemic would spark a lot of discussion about whether we're ready for the next global epidemic," Mr. Gates wrote. "Unfortunately, it didn't, and we still are not ready.

"If anything is going to kill tens of millions of people in a short time, it will probably be a global epidemic. And the disease would most likely be a form of the flu, because the flu virus spreads easily through the air," Mr. Gates wrote. "Today a flu as contagious and lethal as the 1918 one would kill nearly 33 million people in just six months."

Developing a universal flu vaccine is crucial for keeping a global outbreak from happening, but researchers still face challenges in making this vaccine, Mr. Gates said.

"The problem is a long way from being solved, but new research money is coming in and more scientists are working on it," he wrote. "The world needs to develop a global system for monitoring and responding to epidemics. That is a political matter that requires international cooperation among government leaders. This issue deserves a lot more focus."

To read the full letter, click here.

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