Tag Archives: world health

DOOMSDAY DECISION: could the end of a moratorium lead to the beginning of a pandemic?

Earlier this year, researchers from Erasmus Medical College in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and the University of Wisconsin – Madison created a new highly contagious and fatal strain of the H5N1 bird flu.  The new strain poses a fairly significant threat to the world’s health, given that testing shows that it may be capable of being transmitted from one person to another person.  Many scientists fear that its release could realistically result in a global pandemic marked by the deaths of upwards of 50 million people.

Not surprisingly, reports of the man-made strain sparked immediate controversy amid concerns that the researchers would publish a report that detailed their experiments.  The publishing of the report could very well serve as a blueprint for terrorists or hostile nations to engineer a biological weapon capable of killing tens of millions of people.  Several prominent scientists claimed that the research should never had been conducted, and the parties agreed to a sixty day moratorium to consider the issues.

At least the government has taken the matter seriously.  After all, it is now monitoring social networks and mainstream blogs that discuss this version of the avian flu.

And the government, like many others, is impatiently listening to the inevitable tick-tocking of the proverbial clock.  The moratorium will soon end, and somebody will need to make some sort of decision about something.

Well, here we go.

Keiji Fukuda, the Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment for the World Health Organization, has scheduled a meeting to proactively address the upcoming issues.  The meeting is set to commence today in Geneva, and it will be attended by officials from the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, the original research team and other parties.  They hope to determine whether the research should be published in its entirety or whether the research should be redacted or censored prior to publication.

It’s impossible to predict whether the meeting will result in any compromises or agreements.  The debate is being conducted behind closed doors and the public will only have limited access to information until those participating in the summit release the details.  Any decision, however, has the potential to have very significant implications for the future and, at the very least, could serve as precedent for other controversial scientific developments.

In the end, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens – which isn’t necessarily the most comforting scenario given the potentially grave ramifications.

Of course, many folks believe that the Mayan Calendar has already predicted that the world will end later this year.  Forget about Y2K and ignore Harold Camping and Marshall Applewhite – this whole darn argument may well be moot.

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