World must prepare for 'war' against a global pandemic: Gates

Breaking News January 28, 2015 12:55

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BERLIN (AFP) - Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates says the world must use the lessons from battling Ebola to prepare for any future "war" against a global killer disease, with the help of new technology.



Gates, in Berlin for a donor conference of the GAVI alliance bringing vaccines to poor countries, said the risk of a worldwide pandemic meant it was reckless not to act now.  
"A more difficult pathogen (than Ebola) could come along, a form of flu, a form of SARS or some type of virus that we haven't seen before," he said in an interview with AFP. 
"We don't know it will happen but it's a high enough chance that one of the lessons of Ebola should be to ask ourselves: are we as ready for that as we should be? A good comparison is that we prepare ourselves for war -- we have planes and training and we practise." 
He said this included building teams of volunteers who are ready to mobilise quickly in a public health emergency, similar to schemes developed in the countries hit hardest by Ebola: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which registered almost 9,000 deaths in the last year.
Gates, ranked by Forbes magazine as the world's richest man with a net worth of some $80 billion (70 billion euros), said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation distributes about $4 billion each year to help the world's neediest. 
It is also a major contributor to the GAVI alliance, which Tuesday drew pledges of $7.5 billion to help immunise 300 million more children in developing countries over the next five years.
Calling vaccines the "biggest saver of lives" worldwide, the 59-year-old praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for hosting the GAVI conference and making vaccinations a priority of her G7 presidency this year.
However he said he was "concerned" about an anti-vaccination trend in the West, due to exaggerated fears of risks associated with the jabs, that was leading to dangerous outbreaks. 
"Our focus is on the poor children where you have millions that die of vaccine-preventable disease. It's unfortunate that you're not getting 100-per cent coverage in the rich countries," he said. 
"They're choosing to potentially infect somebody who can't protect themselves," he said, noting the renewed spread of illnesses such as measles and pertussis (whooping cough).
"I'm glad there are people who are championing reducing these misunderstandings in rich countries because of the risk that creates."
 
 
 

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