Health and Science

We are vulnerable right now to a flu epidemic: Bill Gates

Employee wellness programs guidelines won’t violate health privacy and discrimination regulations.
Braun S | Getty Images

One of the world's richest men and leading philanthropist is worried that too much regulation will stop the world from controlling a major flu outbreak.

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Bill Gates said that despite technological improvement, "we are a bit vulnerable right now" to diseases that spread quickly.

"There's a lot of discussion right now about how we respond in an emergency, how we make sure that the regulatory and liability and organizational boundaries don't slow us down there, so I cross my fingers all the time that some epidemic like a big flu doesn't come along in the next 10 years," Bill Gates, whose foundation he runs with his wife Melinda invests in global healthcare, said.

He added: "I do think we will have much better medical tools, much better response, but we are a bit vulnerable right now if something that spreads very quickly like say flu."

Flu Facts:

In the U.S., people suffering from flu meant a $5.8 billion bill in health care and productivity costs in 2015. According to a study by the University of North Carolina, 80 percent of these costs were related to people that decided not to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, a pandemic outbreak could cost between $34.4 billion and $45.3 billion in the U.S. alone, according to a study from the Society for Risk Analysis.

There's been a drop in the number of people vaccinated in the U.S. of 1.5 percentage points, the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention said. That contraction reached 3.4 percentage points among those aged 50 to 64.

Contrary to popular misconception, getting the flu vaccine doesn't give you flu: According to the U.K.'s National Health Service website, the vaccine contains inactivated viruses.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.

Bill Gates may be the greatest Secret Santa
Bill Gates may be the greatest Secret Santa