Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Publication of results on H5N1 virus creation: government jawbones scientific journals into restraint on publication; some say experiment should not have been done, leak of virus to public is inevitable

Recently, major media have reported on the creation in the lab of a “bird flu” virus similar to H5N1 transmissible among ferrets, by a Dutch virologist, as for example reported by New Scientist in a story by Martin Enserlink Nov. 29, here.

As expected, the Obama adminstration is asking scientific publications to withhold details on how to make the virus, as reported tonight on NBC Nightly News by Robert Bazell. 



The virus seems to have been invented as a “proof of concept” but it is one of the most dangerous in the world, and it is thought it could have a 60% mortality rate. 

There is not a lot reported in the media about development of H5N1 vaccines. 

It’s true, however, that material that could be used by terrorist in other areas has been available on the web and even in print in public libraries: how to make various explosives, possibly how to make EMP devices.
 
So far, the information on the H5N1 experiment seems secure in the hands of a few labs and scientific journals.  It might be hard for the government to press ordinary news sites or blogs from such restraint of they got a hold of the details.  It would raise free speech questions.  

A couple of journals may publish redacted versions of the story soon. 

MSNBC tonight also has a story on a boy who recovered from a flesh-eating bacteria, possibly called a miracle.

Update: Dec. 27

The New York Times today has a story (by Denise Grady and Donald G. McNeil, Jr.) on the debate  over the experiments having even been done, let alone the idea of publication, because the virus will inevitably "get out".  What makes this virus more dangerous is that it is transmissible person-to-person as well as bird-to-person.  It says possession of the virus needs to be restricted so that at least it cannot get out as "soon".

Wikipedia attribution link for comparative diagram (H1N1 v H5N1).

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