News / Africa

WHO: Balanced Approach for New Bird Flu Virus Strain

An Indonesian man helps health officials cull poultry in the village where a 14-year-old boy died of bird flu Thursday Jan. 11, 2007, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
An Indonesian man helps health officials cull poultry in the village where a 14-year-old boy died of bird flu Thursday Jan. 11, 2007, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
Joe DeCapua

In 2011, scientists discovered they had created a highly contagious and deadly form of H5N1 – commonly called avian or bird flu. When the discovery was announced, debate erupted over whether the research was ethical and fears the new strain could be used as a bioterrorism weapon. Now, the World Health Organization has weighed in on the issue.

The WHO said it is deeply concerned about the potential consequences of the research that can make H5N1 more contagious among humans. At the same time, it said “studies conducted under appropriate conditions must continue” so critical knowledge can be gained on reducing the risks posed by the virus.

Assistant Director-General Dr. Keiji Fukuda said debate continues to swirl even though the findings have not yet been published or reviewed by the WHO.

“They’ve received an extraordinary amount of attention, I think, both in the popular press and the scientific world. A lot of the general issues raised by the papers are reasonably clear. For example, how do you weigh the risks of doing a certain kind of research versus the benefits? What are the right procedures and processes that need to be in place? These are fairly fundamental issues for science in general and public health,” he said.

Extra bit of fire

Laboratories in the Netherlands, Japan and the United States developed the new strain of avian flu.

“When you add the fact you’re dealing with the H5N1 virus, which is one of the most dangerous viruses around, then it adds that extra bit of fire to the discussion. And so, we’ve been following this and monitoring it pretty closely,” said Fukuda.

Over the years, millions of birds, including poultry, have been killed to prevent the spread of the flu.

“Now there’s a lot of influenza viruses which generally infect only birds and this is one of them. But this one stands out because in addition to infecting birds, it also has the ability to infect a wide range of mammals, including humans. Now it does not infect humans very often, but when it does this virus has consistently been about 50 to 60 percent lethal. So it has an extraordinarily high killing rate,” he said.

Fukuda described H5N1 as raising the biggest concern about causing a pandemic. He says that’s why the recent research has raised so much attention.

“While this particular situation is focusing a lot of attention on the risks of bioterrorism, dual use technology and those kinds of questions, which are important, we also want to make sure that we all take a balanced approach to this. So we have to make sure that research continues. We have to make sure that when research is done the risks to people are as minimum as possible,” he said.

PIP

In May 2011, all World Health Organization member states adopted the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, or PIP for short. It’s a guide for sharing virus samples and resulting research benefits. In other words, if a virus with the potential for causing a pandemic is found in a poor country, PIP helps ensure that country benefits when a vaccine or treatment is developed. That was not always the case in the past. Some developing nations lost out because the vaccines or drugs were too expensive.

The WHO assistant director-general said such guidelines should be applied to research involving the new H5N1 strain.

“In the overall scheme of things, when you look at public health and how we’re hopefully better at protecting people, making sure that scientific research continues and addresses the critical issues out there (and) fills the gaps in knowledge is absolutely essential. If we don’t have that happen, then we’re always going to be behind the curve and we know that,” he said.

In the meantime, Fukuda said the natural forms of H5N1 continue to be found in a number of countries, such as Egypt and Indonesia. The new form of the virus is currently under the control of the researchers in a few laboratories. One scientist, who helped develop the new strain, says if H5N1 can be made more transmissible in the lab, it can also happen in nature.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs