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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid