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Bird Flu

In: Business and Management

Submitted By kbowers5767
Words 440
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Should we purposefully engineer avian flu strains to become highly transmissible in humans? In our view, no. We believe the benefits of this work do not outweigh the risks.
There are no guarantees that such a deadly strain of avian flu would not escape accidentally from the laboratory. This particular experiment was performed by internationally respected scientists in biosafety conditions considered top of the line. They seem to have taken the expected and necessary precautions. The risk of a person accidentally becoming infected and starting an outbreak with this new strain is low. But it is not zero.
The safety record of most labs working at high biocontainment levels is outstanding, and the historic number of accidents is very low. In almost all situations, even if a laboratory worker comes in contact with a dangerous pathogen and becomes sick, the risk of extensive wide community spread is negligible. This is because very few dangerous pathogens are as highly transmissible as influenza is. An accidental escape of an influenza strain from a lab in 1977 proves the possibility: That accident led to widespread flu epidemics. Given the potential global consequences of an accident with the newly modified strain of avian flu, we are playing with fire.
We are not opposed to research in high-containment labs using dangerous pathogens, including H5N1. Over the past decade, the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC has publicly argued for the importance of such research to develop diagnostics, medicines and vaccines for the most threatening infectious diseases. But research and development for those purposes does not require engineering lethal viruses to make them more transmissible between humans.
Some who defend the value of this recent experiment have argued that it is important to determine whether the present H5N1 strain could acquire genetic characteristics of a pandemic...

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