Bill Gates calls coronavirus a 'once-in-a-century' pathogen

Bill Gates calls coronavirus a ‘once-in-a-century’ pathogen and says it is ‘more severe’ than the 1957 influenza pandemic that killed more than 66,000 Americans

  • Microsoft co-founder wrote an editorial for New England Journal of Medicine  
  • He called on wealthy nations to help low- and middle-income countries 
  • Gates warns the virus has spread at an alarming rate, ,making it hard to contain 
  • He wants countries to work together to invest in combating next pandemic
  • Foundations run by Gates and his wife pledged $100million to fight coronavirus 

Philanthropist Bill Gates on Friday warned that the coronavirus is beginning to behave like a ‘once-in-a-century’ pathogen with the potential to kill more people than the 66,000 Americans who died in the 1957 influenza pandemic.

‘The data so far suggest that the virus has a case fatality risk around 1 per cent,’ Gates wrote.

‘This rate would make it many times more severe than typical seasonal influenza, putting it somewhere between the 1957 influenza pandemic (0.6 per cent) and the 1918 influenza pandemic (2 per cent).’ 

The virus that caused the 1957 Asian flu pandemic was quickly identified, and vaccines were available by August 1957. 

The elderly had the highest rates of death. 

The Asian flu killed 2 million people globally, according to the World Health Organization. 

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (seen above in Shanghai in 2018) says that the coronavirus has started to behave like a ‘once-in-a-century’ pathogen 

The 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic is the benchmark by which all modern pandemics are measured. 

Some 20 to 40 per cent of the worldwide population became ill and more than 50 million people died. 

Between September 1918 and April 1919, it killed more than 600,000 people in the United States alone. 

In a normal flu season, about 36,000 people die in the United States, and 250,000 to 500,000 globally. 

So far, more than 83,000 people in at least 53 countries have been infected with coronavirus.

Of those who have been infected, a reported 2,800 have died – most of them in China.

In recent days, the number of new infections outside of China has outpaced those within the country. The rapid spread has sent global financial markets spiraling.

Gates urged wealthy nations to help low and middle-income countries strengthen their health systems in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

‘By helping countries in Africa and South Asia get ready now, we can save lives and also slow the global circulation of this virus,’ Gates, the former chairman and chief executive of Microsoft Corp, wrote in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The novel coronavirus that first emerged in China and has now spread to 46 countries is much harder to stop than similar viruses that caused the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Gates wrote. 

‘First, it can kill healthy adults in addition to elderly people with existing health problems,’ he wrote. 

‘Second, Covid-19 is transmitted quite efficiently. 

Coronavirus cases in the US have now risen to 63, including 42 passengers who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, three people repatriated from China and 16 on US soil

The virus that caused the 1957 Asian flu pandemic was quickly identified, and vaccines were available by August 1957. The elderly had the highest rates of death. The Asian flu killed 2 million people globally. The image above shows flu patients in Copenhagen in 1957

‘The average infected person spreads the disease to two or three others – an exponential rate of increase.’ 

What makes the spread of the disease even more difficult to contain is the fact that carriers of the virus may not show any symptoms, according to Gates.

‘That means Covid-19 will be much harder to contain than the Middle East respiratory syndrome or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which were spread much less efficiently and only by symptomatic people. 

‘In fact, Covid-19 has already caused 10 times as many cases as SARS in a quarter of the time.’ 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has already pledged $100million to fight the outbreak.

Gates also called for accelerated testing of vaccines. He noted that several promising candidates are already being prepared for clinical trials.

‘If some of these vaccines prove safe and effective in animal models, they could be ready for larger-scale trials as early as June,’ he wrote. 

‘Drug discovery can also be accelerated by drawing on libraries of compounds that have already been tested for safety and by applying new screening techniques, including machine learning, to identify antivirals that could be ready for large-scale clinical trials within weeks.’

Gates said that these steps can be effective to curb the current pandemic, but more needs to be done to prepare for the next crisis, including shoring up the health care systems of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

‘It’s essential to help LMICs strengthen their primary health care systems,’ the Microsoft co-founder wrote. 

What makes the spread of the disease even more difficult to contain is the fact that carriers of the virus may not show any symptoms, according to Gates. The image above shows a Korean man being tested for coronavirus in Goyang, South Korea, on Thursday

‘When you build a health clinic, you’re also creating part of the infrastructure for fighting epidemics. 

‘Trained health care workers not only deliver vaccines; they can also monitor disease patterns, serving as part of the early warning systems that alert the world to potential outbreaks.’

Gates urged governments to invest in ‘disease surveillance’ including a global ‘case database’ that allows governments to quickly share information. 

‘In addition, we need to build a system that can develop safe, effective vaccines and antivirals, get them approved, and deliver billions of doses within a few months after the discovery of a fast-moving pathogen,’ he wrote. 

‘That’s a tough challenge that presents technical, diplomatic, and budgetary obstacles, as well as demanding partnership between the public and private sectors.

‘But all these obstacles can be overcome.’

Gates wrote that governments and the private sector will need to come together and invest billions of dollars in order to prepare for the next pandemic.

‘Billions of dollars for antipandemic efforts is a lot of money,’ he wrote. 

‘But that’s the scale of investment required to solve the problem. 

‘And given the economic pain that an epidemic can impose – we’re already seeing how Covid-19 can disrupt supply chains and stock markets, not to mention people’s lives – it will be a bargain.’ 

Besides technical solutions, Gates called for better diplomatic efforts to drive international collaboration and data sharing, and increased government spending on drugs and vaccines that would give private companies incentives to take up such efforts. 

Gates’ plea was echoed on Friday by the World Health Organization, which said the risk was very high that the virus would spread and have a global impact.

The WHO implored governments to swing into action to contain the virus before it becomes widespread. Such actions could slow the virus, giving nations more time to prepare, officials said.

‘Health systems around the world are just not ready,’ Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies program, told a news briefing.


The deadly flu virus attacked more than one-third of the world’s population, and within months had killed more than 50 million people – three times as many as World War I – and did it more quickly than any other illness in recorded history.

Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill juvenile, elderly, or already weakened patients; in contrast the 1918 pandemic predominantly killed previously healthy young adults.

Red Cross volunteers fighting against the Spanish flu epidemic  in United States in 1918

To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States.

However, newspapers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in Spain, creating a false impression of Spain as being especially hard hit – and leading to the pandemic’s nickname Spanish flu.

The close quarters and massive troop movements of World War I hastened the pandemic and probably both increased transmission and augmented mutation, researchers believe.

The global mortality rate from the 1918/1919 pandemic is not known, but an estimated 10% to 20% of those who were infected died, with estimates of the total number of deaths ranging from 50-100 million people.


 As many as 100 healthcare workers may have been exposed to the California woman who went four days untested for coronavirus.  

The doctors and nurses are from the University of California Davis Medical Center, where the woman is being treated, and from NorthBay VacaValley Hospital.

”There were multiple health care personnel who were exposed to the individual,’ Dr Bela Matyas, public health officer from Solano County, said at a news conference on Thursday. 

‘At both hospitals we are at present aggressively evaluating everyone who may have had contact with this patient. They are being identified and their risk for exposure is being assessed.’ 

Some are under isolation, some are under quarantine and others have been sent home to continuously monitor their status. 

As for the patient, she is reportedly in very serious condition and is currently intubated, Rep John Garamendi (D-CA) told CNN.

Doctors requested a test for the virus, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ruled out the disease because the patient ‘did not fit the…criteria’ for testing. However, after the woman’s medical team persisted, a test was finally performed on Sunday. 

Health officials have been stumped by the woman’s case because it’s unclear how she contracted the disease. She didn’t travel abroad, wasn’t exposed to another infected patient , and she wasn’t repatriated from China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

Instead, ‘this does appear to be a person who genuinely did acquire their illness in the community,’ Dr Matyas sai. 

According to the CDC, the patient, could be what is known as the first instance of ‘community spread’ of the virus, and more cases like hers will soon follow.

More than 83,000 people have been infected in more than 50 countries and more than 2,800 people – mostly in China – have died.  

There are at now at least 62 coronavirus cases in the US including 15 from the nation, 44 evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and three repatriated from China.


As many as 100 healthcare workers may have been exposed to the California patient who went untested for coronavirus for four days. This image shows medical staff treating patients infected by the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, on Monday 

The patient, who is a resident of Solano County, is reportedly in serious condition and currently intubated at UC Davis Medical Center

Some of the healthcare workers who were exposed are in isolation, others are in quarantine, and others are at home monitoring symptoms. Image courtesy of CBS This Morning

  • Two students at two colleges in California are in isolation after coming into contact with a coronavirus patient
  • Supermarket and pharmacy shelves have been stripped bare by people stockpiling food and medication
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 463 points, or 1.8 percent, at the opening bell on Friday  
  • Mexico confirmed on Friday its first case of coronavirus in a woman who had traveled to Italy in February
  • The White House chief of staff accused the media of working against Trump while reporting on the outbreak  
  • States are running low on test kits but the CDC hopes every health department has kits by next week
  • Schools are canceling overseas trips and one has closed after a staffer’s family member was tested 
  • A new survey found that 38% of Americans are avoiding Corona beer thinking it may be related to the virus 

In addition to healthcare workers, there are fears the California patients may have come into contact with three students at three colleges in Northern California.

According to emails sent to students on both campuses, the students – who attend American River College and Cosumnes River College and Sacramento City College – were exposed last week, reported KTXL.

All three students have been told to self-quarantine for two weeks and to contact health officials if they experience symptoms such as a cough or fever.   

The California woman appears to have the first case of coronavirus.

Los Rios Community College District, where the schools are located, say that neither classes nor school operations will be canceled. 

The Sacramento County Public Health Department does not believe that either campus is at risk for exposure, according to KTXL.  

In addition, three students at UC Davis are being isolated and one is undergoing CDC testing for coronavirus.

University officials say the student undergoing testing has moved off campus while the other two, who are asymptomatic are isolated on campus. 

‘In Yolo County, in the city of Davis, on the campus of UC Davis, there is no evidence of spread of coronavirus, there is no evidence of transmission of coronavirus,’ Yolo County health officer Ron Chapman said. 

Following the woman’s case, the CDC says it is changing its criteria for testing patients and is sending new guidance to healthcare workers.

Prior to this patient, suspected cases were tested if they had traveled to China or were a close contact of someone who had been tested, according to CDC Director Dr Robert Redfield.

But the changed once the California woman tested positive. 

‘As soon as that case was recognized, we met and we revised our case definition for persons under investigation,’ Redfield said. 

‘Today, that has been posted (to the CDC website) along with a new health advisory that the recommendation should be when a clinician or individual suspects coronavirus, then we should be able to get a test for coronavirus.’ 


Photos have emerged of bare supermarket and pharmacy shelves as American stockpile on medication and non-perishable items in fear of a coronavirus outbreak.

It comes three days after a top CDC official warned the it was not ‘a question of it…but when’ coronavirus will spread in the US. 

One Twitter user shared photos of a Virginia supermarket with just a few remaining jumbo bags of pasta.

Another user in southern Calfornia, showed how shelves in one Walgreens had been depleted of cough medicines, cold and flu medications, vaporizers, masks and thermometers. 

Supermarket shelves in Virginia are seen stripped bare of non-perishable items including jumbo bags of pasta

Photos in southern Calfornia showed how shelves in one Walgreens (left and right) had been depleted of cough medicines, cold and flu medications, vaporizers, masks and thermometers

A woman in Michigan shared pictures of her shelves piled with cans of soup, boxes of pasta, jars of peanut butter and more and referred to it as her ‘grocery store basement’

Others on social media opted to shared photos of their stockpiles of food, including one Texas man who bought a year’s supply.

‘I just bought an additional year’s worth of food last night. Everyone needs to have a stockpile of food,’ tweeted Jesse Colombo, is a financial analyst in Dallas.

‘Everyone needs to have a stockpile of food. I wouldn’t even touch stocks (or even gold/silver) before having food in these times.’

Meanwhile, a woman in Michigan shared pictures of her shelves piled with cans of soup, boxes of pasta, jars of peanut butter and more.

She referred to it on Twitter as her ‘grocery store basement.’ 


As the market opened on Friday, US stock indexes fell sharply, raising the alarm of a possible global recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial average lost 463 points at the opening bell on Friday, one day after the index’s biggest one-day point drop in history.

If the Dow closes by more than 1,000 points at the end of the day, it would be the third time this week – and the second consecutive day – the index lost points in the four digit, an event that has only previously occurred twice in history. 

Trader Peter Tuchman works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday at the opening bell. The Dow quickly plunged more than 1,000 points after the open

In Asia and Europe, nearly $6 trillion, or about 10 percent, has been erased from stock values over the course of the week. 

A recession would be different than a market crash. A crash occurs when the market declines in value, without any subsequent dip seen in the economy.  

But a recession is typically defined as negative GDP growth for two consecutive quarters. 


The CDC says tests for coronavirus are in short supply and many states don’t have enough kits to test everyone in need.

California, where 33 of the 62 US cases live or are in quarantine, only has 200, but 8,400 people are being monitored, according to Governor Gavin Newsom.

And officials in New York state are trying to make their own test kit independent of the CDC, especially in light of 83 people being monitored in Nassau County for the illness.

‘This has not gone as smoothly as we would have liked,’ Dr Nancy Messonier, CDC’s director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporter in a media call on Friday.

She added that new test kits are being manufactures to send out to state and local health departments, but that all test results will continue to need to be confirmed by the federal health agency 

Dr Messonier added that she hopes to every state and local health department will have tests for coronavirus by the end of next week.

Dr Nancy Messonier (pictured) of the CDC said that she hopes to every state and local health department will have tests for coronavirus by the end of next week


As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, people who have been exposed to the virus or to sick patients have been asked to go into self-isolation.

But what exactly does that mean?

A former chief medical officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains to what self-isolation is and what you should be doing while cooped up at home.


In a word: no. Those who undergo self-isolation do so voluntarily and have to make arrangements themselves while they’re at home.

While quarantines are typically voluntary, sometimes they can be mandatory, such as the federal quarantine for US citizens evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.  

People under quarantine are not sick, but they are are separated fro the general public to see if they become sick.

Both self-isolation and quarantine differ from isolation, which separates those who are sick from the general public until they are cured or treated.


‘People who should go into self-isolation are not sick but they’ve had a credible exposure,’ said Dr Robert Amler, former chief medical officer for the CDC and dean of New York Medical College.

‘There’s reason to believe they may have been exposed. And we wait for the incubation period, in this case about 14 days, to see if they become sick.’

This includes a few groups of people such as anyone awaiting CDC test results or anyone who has been in contact with someone waiting for test results.

Anyone who has traveled to a foreign country where the outbreak is rampant such as China, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran.


People under self-isolation are expected to stay home and not go to work or school, or take their children to school.  

Dr Amler says that people should try to do as much of their normal activities as they can – such as working from home or doing school work – without physically contacting anyone else. 

‘That means staying in your room, trying to have your own bathroom facility if possible, and not sharing plates or utensils with other household members,’ he said.

However, being in self-isolation doesn’t mean that you can’t have contact with the outside world. 

‘You can use your TV, your stereo, your phone, FaceTime, go on social media,’ Dr Amler said.

‘Just anything that does not allow you to get [possibly infected] droplets everywhere else.’


People under self-isolation are not allowed to leave the premises under any circumstances.

One option is to have family or friends drop off supplies you need. Alternatively, you can use grocers or online retailers to deliver packages. 

Dr Amler offers two suggestions, either wear a mask when the person drops off items or wait until they leave before retrieving them.

He says the latter is more ideal because ‘because the person delivering items not enter the air space.’ 


Dr Amler says that most people don’t produce huge amounts of garbage by themselves so, if you can wait to take it out, that’s the best option.

‘If there’s no harm in keeping it, that’s the most protective way,’ he said. ‘That way nothing going out your room.’ 

If that’s not possible, Dr Amler recommends depositing outside of your doorstep until the 14-day isolation period is up. 


The most important thing is to not visit a doctor’s office, a hospital or any other healthcare setting, otherwise you risk infecting others.

Stay home and immediately call your healthcare provider and ask them for advice on what you should do.

‘Alert the authorities so you can be transferred to a hospital to be monitored, and undergo testing,’ Dr Amler said.



Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney implied American should ignored news reports about coronavirus and accused the media of working against President Donald Trump.

‘They think this will bring down the president. That’s what it’s all about,’ Mulvaney told the audience at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference 2020 in Maryland. ‘It’s not a death sentence. It’s not the same as the Ebola crisis.’

However, he admitted that the virus’s spread would likely impact schools and public transportation. 

Mulvaney told the crowd that he was allegedly asked by a reported: ‘What are you going to do today to calm the markets?’

‘I’m like: “Really what I might do today [to] calm the markets is tell people turn their televisions off for 24 hours.” This is not Ebola…it’s not SARS, it’s not MERS,.’

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney implied that the media is working against Donald Trump as it reports on the coronavirus outbreak spreading around the world. Picturd: Mulvaney at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2020 in National Harbor, Maryland, on Friday

Mulvaney admitted at the same time that schools would be shut down and public transpiration would be affected. Pictured: Stephen Moore (left) of the Heritage Foundation speaks with Mulvaney

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are cousins of the new coronavirus, but appear to be more fatal.

‘Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably,’ Mulvaney said. 

‘May you see impacts on public transportation? Sure. But we do this. We know how to handle this.’  

His remarks comes as the Dow Jones lost about 463 points at the opening bell, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced all schools will be closed for a month, and the US has canceled joint military drills with South Korea.   


Schools across the US have been preparing for a possible spread of coronavirus by canceling trips abroad, preparing online lessons and even considering banning ‘perfect attendance’

Currently only one school, Bothell High School in Washington state, has been closed, bu top CDC official Dr Nancy Messonier has warned that more closures could be imminent.

Classes at Bothell were canceled after a staffer’s family member was placed under quarantine for showing symptoms linked to the the virus. 

‘After much consideration and information gathering from multiple sources, including our partners at Public Health Seattle & King County, I have decided to keep Bothell High School closed on Friday, Feb 28,’ said Northshore School District superintendent Michelle Reid in a statement.

‘This will provide us an opportunity to complete the cleaning and hopefully receive the results of the test.’ 

It follows moves by schools in China, Iran, Italy, Japan and Bahrain, although evidence seems to suggest that children are less likely than adults to contract the virus.

A school janitor opens a door to a staff room inside Bothell High School, which was closed after a staffer’s family member was placed under quarantine for showing symptoms linked to the the virus

Do not enter signs are seen taped to doors at Bothell High School on February 27, after the school was closed for the day

Meanwhile, in Miami, public school officials say they have prepared 200,000 laptops and tablets for students to take home in case buildings close and classes need to be taken online.

‘If there is one place where a contagion can actually spread, it could be the schoolhouse,’ Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

‘We are ready. We have protocols in place’. 

Miami officials also announced that field trips to Italy and Scotland would be canceled, while Virginia’s Fairfax County announced trips to countries where the virus has spread would be suspended. 

And the National School Boards Association has asked schools to reconsider perfect attendance awards, fearing students could come to school sick and infect others.  

‘School districts may want to revisit what it means to have perfect attendance,’ Francisco Negrón, chief legal officer for the group, said.

‘We certainly wouldn’t want sick kids to come to school just because their parents are shooting for that perfect attendance award’.    


Mexico says it has confirmed it first case of coronavirus in the country.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said in a news conference on Friday that the male patient visited Italy – where about 650 cases have been confirmed – in the third week of February.

The patient has been placed in isolation at the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Mexico City and his family members are in quarantine.

López-Gatell said the patient has only had mild symptoms, resembling a cold, and he does not require hospitalization. 

Hugo Lopez-Gatell Ramirez, Mexico’s Undersecretary of Health Prevention and Promotion, held a news conference in Mexico City on Friday about the country’s first confirmed coronavirus case

In a separate press conference, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged the public to stay calm and not give into ‘a collective psychosis of fear.’

Mexico has the ‘doctors, specialists, hospitals, the capacity to face the situation,’ he said.   

The government said it waiting to get the test results back for a potential second case regarding a 41-year-old man in Sinaloa. He is currently under quarantine at a hotel. 

Two people are under examination in Mexico City and central Mexico state, but none have been confirmed to have the virus, reported The Wall Street Journal. 


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