Bird Flu: Scientists Develop New Strain Of H5N1, Avian Influenza, That Could Kill Millions

Posted: November 30, 2011 in Health

Timothy Stenovec
The Huffington Post
November 30, 2011

It sounds like the setup for a Hollywood thriller: scientists in a lab create a virus as contagious as the flu that kills half of those infected. We’re safe as long as the virus remains locked up, but if it escapes or gets into the hands of bioterrorists, it has the potential to become a pandemic and kill millions around the world.

But this isn’t the latest summer blockbuster. According to New Scientist magazine, researchers in the Netherlands studying H5N1 — commonly referred to as the bird flu or avian influenza — have created a strain of the virus that’s easily passed between mammals, and it’s just as lethal as the original virus.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the H5N1 virus has infected more than 500 people in more than a dozen countries and is known to kill around 60 percent of those that become infected.

Ron Fouchier, a researcher at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, led the team that successfully created the mutation. Fouchier presented the findings at a conference in Malta in September and, according to NPR, is now seeking publication of his results.

But some in the scientific community are debating whether or not that’s a good idea.

Read Article Here

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