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Biotech Science

Deadly H5N1 Flu Studies To Stay Secret... For Now 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the those-birds-are-not-trustworthy dept.
Edsj writes "A spokesman for the World Health Organization announced that an agreement had been reached, after a debate, to keep details secret of the controversial work about the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu virus until deeper risk analyses have been carried out. The scientists who made the study, led by Ron Fouchier, still want to release the full paper at some future date for public viewing, but for the time being, the NSABB got what it wanted." The moratorium will be extended "probably for several months."
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Deadly H5N1 Flu Studies To Stay Secret... For Now

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @06:37PM (#39080187)

    As was brought up couple weeks back in SciFri, the study abstract and rough process which has been talked publicly is enough for skilled laboratory to try same. Passing the virus just trough five ferret infections to get it spreading over air is so simple and little that it might happen anyway naturally over time without human intervention.

    All we can do and should do is start developing vaccines now and not wait until we would be too late. It takes about 6 months to develop and produce enough vaccine. Thinking that the lethality of H1N5 is about 50% compared to smallpox ~40% it's going to be enormous panic to get it done if any preparations were not done beforehand.

  • by gatkinso (15975) on Friday February 17, 2012 @06:42PM (#39080235)

    ... that it is relatively easy to produce this deadly strain.

    If it were hard, say like producing an atomic bomb (rather, producing the fuel for an atomic bomb)... then there would be no reason to keep it secret.

  • Re:Wikipedia says (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:49PM (#39081439) Homepage

    My amateur understanding of it is that the particularly deadly strains burn themselves out fairly quick, because a dead person doesn't spread disease like an ambulatory one. Because we have a much better understanding of these things today(transmission, sanitation, incubation, etc), a pandemic in a modern society will be more difficult for a virus to attain and easier to avoid the scorch the earth policy necessary to eradicate it. Granted, small deadly outbreaks can't be stopped, but it would be less likely for it to spread like we've seen before before it burns itself out.

    I don't know. Most Americans I've met have serious qualms about calling in sick to work for a cold or flu -- whether it's because they don't want to be perceived as whiners, or they have too much work on their plate, or they get so little vacation that they don't want to lose days that they could otherwise use for much-needed rest. A flu virus could very easily become a pandemic even if it makes you sicken and die in a single day, so long as it makes you walk around with a cough and the sniffles for a few days before that.

    Also, in general the idea that diseases evolve to be less virulent over time is a myth. Think about rabies; if you catch full blown rabies (you don't get your shots in time), you're going to die. Mortality for rabies in humans approaches 100 percent. Once you develop symptoms, you'll be dead in a week. So is rabies "pricing itself out of the market"? No. It has existed for all of human history. You don't hear about cases of rabies in major human cities very often, but outside the developed areas, when a human or an animal gets rabies, it's the same rabies it has always been, and it's fatal. And there are many other diseases that have very dire, potentially lethal symptoms in humans. The idea that a living human must keep passing a pathogen to other living humans for it to survive in the long run is, unfortunately, too naïve and simplistic a model of disease.

  • Re:Wikipedia says (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Friday February 17, 2012 @09:01PM (#39081529) Homepage

    Nope. It kills 58% of people who are detected to have been infected. There might be hundreds more people who get better quickly and never seek medical attention.

    Why is that relevant?

    People who don't sicken don't need medical attention. I think that's obvious.

    Of those people who sicken from the flu, the ones who are infected with H5N1 die much more often than the people who sicken from other strains.

    Suppose they came out with statistics showing that most people who have handguns fired at them don't get hit by the bullet, and of those that do get hit by the bullet, not many die. However, of those people who do get hit by the bullet, hollow-tip bullets cause much more severe injuries than regular ones. Would your conclusion be, "Who cares, I'm Superman"?

  • 58% figure is bogus (Score:4, Interesting)

    by estitabarnak (654060) on Friday February 17, 2012 @09:10PM (#39081605)

    The 58% figure is not the number of people who were exposed to the virus and died. It is not the number of people who have been exposed and successfully infected and died.

    The 58% figure is the number of people who were SO sick that it warranted going to the hospital, and then died.

    Serological surveys have shown that in the populations where H5N1 has been historically present there are an extensive number of people who have been infected, successfully mounted an immune response, and survived. And even that says nothing about the people who were exposed and did not get sick.

    The 50-60% figure has been getting a ton of coverage in the press, and is total bullshit. As a reason to censor scientific research, it is total bullshit.

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