January 16, 2012
Bird-Flu Scientists Say US Should Not Be Sole Deciders Of Virus’ Fate
Scientists are now saying that the U.S. government should not get to decide who controls the scientific information involving how to make the dangerous bird-flu virus.
Ron Fouchier and Ab Osterhaus of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam have accepted recommendations by the US government's National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity to keep details on how to construct the virus unpublished.
"We do question whether it is appropriate to have one country dominate a discussion that has an impact on scientists and public-health officials worldwide," Fouchier and Osterhaus write in the journal Nature.
"It is not clear whether an international discussion would lead to different recommendations ... We don't know the worldwide opinion until a group of experts from all parts of the globe is formed. An issue this big should not be decided by one country, but all of us," they say.
The researchers created a strain of H5N1 bird-flu virus that is capable of being spread by airborne transmission between laboratory ferrets, which is the standard animal model for human influenza.
Fouchier said in a statement last year that his discovery showed what mutations to watch for so “we can then stop the outbreak before it´s too late.”
The bird flu has only sickened nearly 600 people over the past decade, but it´s a deadly virus that kills people 60 percent of the time.
Some are concerned that bird flu could begin spreading easily between people and cause a pandemic.
The viruses were kept under special conditions along with other “select agents” for security and to guard against a lab accident.
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