No way of stopping leak of deadly new flu, says terror chief
Professor Paul Keim, chairman of the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, controversially recommended that researchers be stopped from publishing the precise mutations needed to transform the H5N1 strain of birdflu virus into a human-transmissible version.
In an exclusive interview with The Independent, he argued it had been necessary to limit the release of the scientific details because of fears that terrorists may use the information to create their own H5N1 virus that could be spread easily between people.
Professor Keim said that it was necessary to slow down the release of scientific information because it was clear that the world is not yet prepared for a strain of highly lethal H5N1 influenza that can be transmitted by coughs and sneezes.
“We recognised that, in the long term certainly, the information is going to get out, and maybe even in the mid term. But if we can restrict it in the short term and motivate governments to start getting busy in terms of building up the flu-defence infrastructure, then we’ve succeeded at a certain level,” he said.
“If we can slow down the release of the specific information that would enable somebody to reconstruct this virus and do something nefarious, even for a while, then that was a good thing.”
By withholding key details of the mutations needed to make an airborne strain of H5N1, this would give time for governments to prepare for and prevent a possible pandemic, he added.
“The infrastructure to stop a pandemic in this area is not there. We just don’t have the capabilities. The very first time we knew that the swine flu virus [coming out of Mexico] was there, it was already in 18 countries. I’m not confident at all that we have the surveillance capability to spot an emerging virus in time to stop it,” he said.
“And even if we did spot it early on, I don’t think we have…Read full article here