The epidemiologist helped eradicate smallpox, and he’s also been involved in the battle against polio and blindness. In a 2006 TED Talk, Brilliant described what the pandemic would look like — and he says the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to infect more people than he predicted.
“I think it has the potential for infecting more than a billion people,” he says. “I’m optimistic that for this particular virus, which has a relatively low death rate compared to smallpox and others, that the death rate would be less than that. But as far as its disruption, yes. It’s every bit as disruptive as I feared.”
While a vaccine for COVID-19 could take more than a year to develop, Brilliant says he is optimistic that scientists will be able to reduce the virus’s toll with antiviral medications.