H5N1 flu virus could put millions at risk
Scientist briefs Senate Homeland Security Committee on potential threat
Thomas Inglesby, CEO and director of the Center for Biosecurity of the
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, asked the Senate Homeland
Security Committee last week. The result would be millions dead and even
more at risk for contracting the deadly flu.
Avian flu was discovered in China in 2008, prompting the destruction of much poultry.
"The case fatality rate of wild H5N1 in the WHO database is nearly 60 percent, as you indicated. So if a strain of H5N1 with that fatality rate were engineered to spread like seasonal flu, hundreds of millions of people's lives would be at risk. Even a strain a hundred times less fatal would place at risk millions of people's lives."
Concern has grown recently over advances in the field of biotechnology, in which scientists have created synthetic viruses in laboratories.
Inglesby says that mistakes can be made in laboratories, like the one in 1977 when "H1N1 caused a mini-pandemic, probably from a lab escape.
"Nine years ago during SARS, there were at least three incidents in which researchers working in BL-3 or BL-4 labs in Singapore, Taiwan and China accidentally infected themselves with SARS," Inglesby said. "We have to factor the possibility of human error, surprise and accidents into our calculations of the risk of this research," he added.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Americans have the right to expect that their money, which funds scientific research intended for the "common good," will not be used to facilitate terrorism.
Collins says research done by the National Institutes of Health and conducted in Wisconsin and the Netherlands, is expected to be published in two academic journals.
The National Science Advisory Board for National Security, a government advisory board, recommended in December that part of the information be withheld for security reasons. The board has since reversed that decision, advocating full publication of the research done in Wisconsin and a revised paper on the research performed in the Netherlands.
The board's decision and reversal "have been part of a larger debate within the scientific and national security communities, and there are important arguments being made on both sides," Collins said.
"When the American people pay for scientific research intended for the common good, they have a right to expect that their money will not be used to facilitate terrorism. These are not hypothetical threats," Collins added.
"Before he was killed, Anwar al-Awlaki reportedly sought poisons to attack the United States. Adding to these concerns, the new leader of al Qaeda has a medical background. Therefore, he may have an even greater interest in pursuing chemical and biological terrorism," she said.
Collins acknowledged, however, that "there is a legitimate concern about government censorship that could chill academic freedom and scientific inquiry or even limit the sharing of information necessary to save lives or improve public health."
"Can we assure this research won't be replicated and deliberately misused? No. We can hope no potential adversary will have the competence or the intention to pursue this. But we can't accurately predict their chances this work will be replicated by a malevolent or disaffected scientist somewhere in the world, or a terrorist group, or nation state," Inglesby said.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: H5N1, avian flu, bioterrorism, taxes, research
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Health News
- HIV resurgent among Navajo tribe as deadly cases spike
- UK to give cancer patients genetic analysis just like Angelina Jolie
- Vitamin D found beneficial in treating asthma symptoms
- Study: Depressed women in 40s, 50s suffer more than twice for stroke risk
- Some experts say it's biologically possible to clone a human
- Study: Women live longer than men as their immune systems age more slowly
- Man declared dead for 40 minutes brought back to life with revolutionary machine
- IPad2 poses risks to those with pacemakers, 14-year-old girl discovers
- New SARS-like virus can likely be spread person-to-person
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?