The federal government recently lifted a ban on funding experiments that deal with lethal viruses. Work focused on altering germs to make them more dangerous can now proceed, “but only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks.”
Some scientists are eager to pursue these studies because they may show, for example, how a bird flu could mutate to more easily infect humans, or could yield clues to making a better vaccine…
The pathogen to be modified must pose a serious health threat, and the work must produce knowledge — such as a vaccine — that would benefit humans. Finally, there must be no safer way to do the research…
Critics say these researchers risk creating a monster germ that could escape the lab and seed a pandemic.
If you think this sounds like the start of the next 28 Days Later movie, you may be right. Now is a good time to brush up on your “In Case of Super Contagious Disease Outbreak” plans and it wouldn’t hurt to consider a “Zombie Plan of Action” as well. The CDC has you covered:
Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse
Now that’s certainly an exciting phrase. I find it helpful to remind myself that “pandemic” refers mostly to the extent of the spread of the virus, and not necessarily the severity.
Researchers are estimating that 1 in 3 people who come into contact with someone infected will become infected themselves. (I watch too many zombie-flu movies, because every time I hear “the infected” I think of the “rage” virus in 28 days later…not a pretty sight.”) Anyhow, researchers think the H1N1 virus will “go global” in the next 6-9 months. The “analysis of Mexico’s swine flu outbreak suggests that the H1N1 virus is about as dangerous as the virus behind a 1957 pandemic that killed 2 million people worldwide.”
Prof Ferguson from the WHO’s emergency committee for the outbreak, says:
“This virus really does have full pandemic potential. It is likely to spread around the world in the next six to nine months and when it does so it will affect about one-third of the world’s population.
To put that into context, normal seasonal flu every year probably affects around 10% of the world’s population every year, so we are heading for a flu season which is perhaps three times worse than usual – not allowing for whether this virus is more severe than normal seasonal flu viruses.”
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