Bill Gates Warns We Should Be Preparing for a Deadly Global Pandemic but the Trump Administration Is Blowing Him Off
With all the talk of President Trump’s nuclear button, deadly extreme weather and even humanoid robots taking over the world, it’s easy these days to imagine any number of doomsday scenarios that could wipe out the human race.
According to Microsoft-founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates, however, the most pressing threat is something much less dramatic but also highly plausible: A global pandemic akin to the 1918 influenza breakout, which could kill more than 30 million people in just six months.
Work hard, play hard. This is the typical American mindset: prioritizing work over all other aspects of life. In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week. For many Americans, this workload is often necessary, as the average cost of living and the affordability of healthcare remains out of reach for many people. The overworked behavior pattern can be disastrous when it contributes to the spread of communicable diseases.
America isn't at her healthiest on a number of fronts.
America is currently in the midst of many epidemics: a mass shooting epidemic, an opioid epidemic and a flu epidemic. All three pose significant risks. 2018 has been a particularly bad year for the flu. In fact, it has been so bad that it is nearly record-breaking in terms of hospital visits. In the first three weeks in January, 24 children have died as a result of the flu, with a total of 37 fatalities since the beginning of the season. The season’s flu is particularly bad, for a plethora of reasons. According to USA Today, “Both influenza A and B strains are circulating at the same time, when one usually dominates early in the season with the other coming on late. Also, flu vaccines are less effective than expected. And one strain of the flu, H3N2, is particularly virulent, making people sicker and sometimes causing an intense reaction from the body's immune system, during which the lungs can become inflamed and airways can be blocked by mucus and more.”
Week by week, the headlines have worsened. As the 2018 flu season marches across North America, experts’ warnings have only grown more dire. By most accounts, the 2018 flu season is the worst in a decade. Australia had 2.5 times more cases than usual during their season, and the dominant strain this year seems to be rare. So this year, like every year, physicians are strongly recommending that people of all ages get their flu shots. And this year, like every year, reasonable people ignore or outright dismiss their doctors’ warnings.
The anti-vaccination movement has been utterly debunked, and no one actually likes getting the flu. So why do so many people avoid this simple injection?
Each year, the epidemiology community keeps a close eye on the flu, a virus that is famous for mutating and changing in its severity and ability to spread. This year is an especially auspicious year for contemplating influenza: 100 years ago, the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 killed millions of people around the world. Studying these viruses can alert the medical and scientific communities in time to stop such an outbreak from devastating humanity again.
However, studying viruses can be a tricky business. In 2014, University of Wisconsin flu experts created a “mutant” version of the 1918 flu virus, and discovered that strains of the original 1918 version still exist in the environment. Since even the strictest lab protocols can’t promise that such a virus won’t escape, this development sparked debate which prompted the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to issue a moratorium on continued studies on infectious diseases. Scientists argued that if we don’t study viruses, we won’t understand how to combat them when they inevitably occur in human and agricultural populations.
Anyone who has ever had any contact with a “sick” man before knows that man flu is real. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “man flu” is a “cold or similar minor ailment as experienced by a man who is regarded as exaggerating the severity of the symptoms.” Basically, too sick to unload the dishwasher, but not so sick that he can’t stay up until midnight watching sports. (True story.)
But what if millions and millions and millions of women are wrong? What if men really do experience the terrible, debilitating effects of a runny nose more than women do?
When FluMist hit the market in 2003, parents rejoiced. They could protect their children from the potentially deadly influenza virus without subjecting them to the needle. But now it turns out the popular alternative, which is administered via nose spray, doesn’t get the job done. The CDC reports that FluMist does not protect against flu, and is making the recommendation that parents vaccinate their children using the traditional injectable flu vaccine this year. Last year, more than 146 million Americans were vaccinated against the flu. The FluMist option accounts for about a third of all flu vaccines given to children every year.