Bill Gates says mosquitoes scare him more than sharks

The Microsoft billionaire would rather cuddle with Jaws than wander outside into a cloud of skeeters.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read
Enlarge Image

Mosquitoes are a lot scarier than they seem, according to this chart listing annual worldwide human deaths caused by different animals -- including other humans.


Sharks seem so frightening, with their giant mouths full of gleaming teeth. We're convinced they're going to leap out of nowhere and make us lunch, even if we never get within 100 miles of an ocean.

But Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates wrote in a recent blog post that it's not sharks that scare him, but a creature that's a whole lot tinier and which at first glance may seem a whole lot less threatening -- the mosquito.

In a post that went up on his GatesNotes blog on Monday, the billionaire explains his reasoning. "Pound for pound, a shark isn't that scary compared with many smaller creatures," he writes, including a graphic displaying the number of people killed by different animals in 2015. The shark only gets credit for 6 worldwide deaths, while the mosquito notches a scarily impressive 830,000.

"The mosquito has the equivalent of a hypodermic needle, and by going directly into your blood, they bypass the normal disease defense mechanisms," Gates says in an accompanying video. "So any viruses that evolve to attack humans get in there very, very quickly."

Gates goes on to list the many diseases spread by mosquitoes, including dengue, yellow fever, zika, and last but not least, malaria, which he says "may be the most important disease in human history." Malaria has long been a top priority of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a multi-year strategy aimed at eradicating the deadly disease.

"I think it's one of the most stunning things to say that this little mosquito, it's a small insect that you can, you know, kill with a slap of your hand, it actually kills more humans than any other thing," Gates says.