Thursday, June 12, 2014

Recreating the 1918 Flu: What Could Go Wrong?

In real life, maybe nothing. In apocalypse fiction: Oh, oh...
An international team of researchers led by a University of Wisconsin-Madison scientist created a life-threatening virus in a high-containment lab in Madison nearly identical to the 1918 "Spanish flu" pandemic that killed a staggering 50 million people worldwide, according to an article published Wednesday in a major science journal.

The controversial research, intended to show that bird flu viruses currently circulating in nature have the same potential for pandemic, is drawing sharp criticism around the world as highly risky.
Some people in apparently responsible positions really don't sound sanguine:
"The work they are doing is absolutely crazy," Lord May, the United Kingdom's former chief science adviser, told the Guardian this week. "The whole thing is exceedingly dangerous. Yes, there is a danger, but it's not arising from the viruses out there in the animals, it's arising from the labs of grossly ambitious people."

A virologist at the renowned Pasteur Institute in Paris referred to it as "madness, folly."

"It shows profound lack of respect for the collective decision-making process we've always shown in fighting infections, Simon Wain-Hobson told the Guardian. "If society, the intelligent lay-person, understood what was going on, they would say, 'What the F are you doing?'"
Well, then. I guess I'm glad we have a small stock of N95 face masks.

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