News / USA

    WHO Recommends Continued Research of Lethal Bird Flu Strain

    Health department officials and volunteers wear protective gear and cull birds in an effort to check for bird flu, at a poultry farm at Keranga village in Khurda district, India, January 13, 2012.
    Health department officials and volunteers wear protective gear and cull birds in an effort to check for bird flu, at a poultry farm at Keranga village in Khurda district, India, January 13, 2012.
    Jessica Berman

    A panel of the World Health Organization has recommended that research continue on a potentially lethal strain of bird flu so that scientists can better understand how the virus might trigger a global pandemic. The decision follows a U.S. government appeal last December to two scientific journals that they NOT publish key details of a federally-funded experiment that created new, more infectious strains of the deadly bird flu virus.

    The H5N1 avian influenza virus originated in poultry flocks in Asia. While it has rarely infected humans, the illness carries a 60 percent mortality rate.    

    Scientists at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands engineered a more virulent strain of the H5N1 bird flu to try to understand how mutations could make it more infectious to both animal and human populations - a change that could lead to a global pandemic.

    But a U.S. government panel on biosecurity, concerned that the mutated virus could fall into the hands of bioterrorists, asked two leading scientific magazines - Science and the British journal Nature - not to publish sensitive details of the work.

    The magazines agreed and in January, the scientists voluntarily halted their research for 60 days.

    In Geneva, the World Health Organization convened an emergency meeting of 20 scientists and public health experts to discuss the issue.  Assistant Director-General for Health, Security and Environment, Keiji Fukuda said participants concluded there is ample justification for continuing the scientific research:

    “In really helping us to understand better how these H5N1 viruses work, and also what are some of the changes we ought to be looking for out there in the real world, in terms of trying to keep on top of these viruses, which are becoming more dangerous in terms of causing a pandemic,” said Fukuda.

    But Fukuda said the panel also agreed the research moratorium ought to continue for now, until all public health risks and benefits, as well as security fears, have been fully identified and addressed.

    Fukuda stressed the research is being carried out in secure laboratory facilities, with little risk to the public.

    The WHO panel also recommended that Science and Nature, for the time being, refrain from publishing articles about the research. The editors of Science said Friday they will honor the request.

    Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science, said as a result of the work by the American and Dutch scientists, researchers now know how easy it is for the H5N1 virus to mutate, increasing the risk of a global pandemic.

    “There’s every reason to suspect that in the natural environment, there will be such a [mutated] virus emerging. I mean millions of birds - I don’t know whether birds sneeze - but obviously the virus will spread better in birds, as well as better in people, if it can be transferred through aerosols.”

    The WHO panel is recommending that research on the genetically engineered H5N1 virus be shared with scientists in all countries so they can begin developing drugs and vaccines, should a serious outbreak or pandemic of this deadly form of avian flu ever come to pass.


    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, here's what the history of take-out food tells us about changes in American society

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora