Tuesday, February 14, 2012

News Brief: US board says censuring research on avian flu was necessary to prevent a potential catastrophe

Enshu Chawla

After research was completed on human to human transmission of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, there was a lot of controversy due to the censuring of the research methods used in this process. This censuring was justified due to the fact that, if an individual with bad intentions had access to the research methods, an extremely dangerous and deadly epidemic could result. The recommendation to censure the research methods was made by the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, and arguments were made over the right to censor science. The imagined catastrophe drew comparisons to the "Spanish flu" epidemic of 1918. The mortality rate of individuals reported to have been infected with the H5N1avian flu has been greater than 50%, but there have been just a few hundred people known to have it. Also, these people became infected due to close contact with sick birds. The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity has defended their recommendation of censuring the research, due to the great danger posed by human to human transmission of the avian flu. In order to alleviate the problem and to help both the research and field continue to grow, a meeting hosted by the World Health Organization will take place. Despite the concern of the H5N1 avian flu, antibodies to the virus have been found in common quantities in some rural Thai villages. This seems to go against the belief that the H5N1 avian flu is an extremely dangerous and deadly virus. Overall, the censuring of the research methods of discovering human to human transmission of the avian flu is subject to a great deal of controversy and differing beliefs.
Roehr, Bob. "US Board Says Censuring Research on Avian Flu Was Necessary to Prevent a Potential Catastrophe." BMJ. British Medical Journal, 2 Feb. 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. .
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