On Thursday the journal Science published a controversial study on the H5N1 bird flu, which revealed that the virus could mutate to spread easily among humans. Initially, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity tried to block study details from being released for fear that it could be used by terrorists to make a bioweapon.
H5N1 can be contracted by humans from birds, but is currently not contagious between humans.
The reports suggest that there is a large risk of a human version of bird flu erupting in the near future, and show how this could be done in a laboratory.
Ron A. M. Fouchier from the Erasmus Medical centre in the Netherlands created a virus strain that could spread through the air among ferrets.
The results of the experiment would suggest that bird flu could potentially mutate to become transmittable between humans like the flu, a scary thought considering the human fatality rate from bird flu when contracted from birds was recorded as 60 per cent in 2010.
In the study, however, the ferrets only died when infected directly with a swab — not when they contracted the more mild airborne variety.
The NSABB was so nervous about these experiments that they asked Science not to publish the material back in December, The New Times’ Denise Grady reported.
The board was afraid that the study could potentially be used as a roadmap for biochemical terrorists seeking to create a deadly bird flu weapon.
NSABB chair Dr. Paul Keim was so anxious, because he claimed it was the most potentially dangerous pathogen in existence. “I don’t think anthrax is scary at all compared to this,” Keim told Science Insider back in November 2011.
The board withdrew its request for censorship in March, but only after a similar board by the World Health organisation decided the information should be made public.
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