The next deadly worldwide epidemic could happen at the hand of a terrorist, employing biotechnology for an attack, Bill Gates has warned at the Munich Security Conference. The Microsoft founder also compared the pandemic to nuclear war and climate change.
“The next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus … or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu,” he warned in a speech published by Business Insider.
“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,” he warned.
A chronicle of years of US mismanagement of biohazard and bioweapons labs:
Proliferation of bird flu outbreaks raises risk of human pandemic
The global spread of bird flu and the number of viral strains currently circulating and causing infections have reached unprecedented levels, raising the risk of a potential human outbreak, according to disease experts.
Multiple outbreaks have been reported in poultry farms and wild flocks across Europe, Africa and Asia in the past three months. While most involve strains that are currently low risk for human health, the sheer number of different types, and their presence in so many parts of the world at the same time, increases the risk of viruses mixing and mutating – and possibly jumping to people.
“This is a fundamental change in the natural history of influenza viruses,” Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist at University of Minnesota, said of the proliferation of bird flu in terms of geography and strains – a situation he described as “unprecedented”.
Global health officials are worried another strain could make a jump into humans, like H5N1 did in the late 1990s. It has since caused hundreds of human infections and deaths, but has not acquired the ability to transmit easily from person to person.
The greatest fear is that a deadly strain of avian flu could then mutate into a pandemic form that can be passed easily between people – something that has not yet been seen.
While avian flu has been a prominent public health issue since the 1990s, ongoing outbreaks have never been so widely spread around the world – something infectious disease experts put down to greater resilience of strains currently circulating, rather than improved detection or reporting.
While there would normally be around two or three bird flu strains recorded in birds at any one time, now there are at least half a dozen, including H5N1, H5N2, H5N8 and H7N8.
The Organization for Animal Health (OIE) says the concurrent outbreaks in birds in recent months are “a global public health concern”, and the World Health Organization’s director-general warned this week the world “cannot afford to miss the early signals” of a possible human flu pandemic.
The precise reasons for the unusually large number and sustained nature of bird outbreaks in recent months, and the proliferation of strains, is unclear – although such developments compound the global spreading process.
Bird flu is usually spread through flocks through direct contact with an infected bird. But Osterholm said wild birds could be “shedding” more of the virus in droppings and other secretions, increasing infection risks. He added that there now appears to be “aerosol transmission from one infected barn to others, in some cases many miles away”…
The most recent new emerging infection is the H5N6 influenza virus infection. This infection has just been reported from China in early May 2014. The disease is believed to be a cross species infection. All indexed cases are from China. Of interest, the H5N6 influenza virus is the primary virus for avian. The avian H5N6 influenza virus in avian population is a low virulent strain. However, the clinical manifestation in human seems severe. In this mini-review, the authors summarize and discuss on this new emerging influenza.
China accuses United States of secret biological attack over new strain of bird flu that has killed nine
- Senior Colonel Dai Xu says US released virus in act of biological warfare
- Says outbreak is similar to SARS, which he also claims was created by US
- US has dismissed claims, saying there is ‘absolutely no truth’ to them