bird flu

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State officials are urging owners of backyard chicken to sign up their flock for bird flu testing.

The state is trying to prevent an outbreak of a new strain of bird flu like the one recently seen in China. At least 36 people have died of the disease since March.

What was supposed to be a 60-day moratorium on certain experiments involving lab-altered bird flu has now lasted more than eight months. And there's no clear end in sight.

Researchers still disagree on how to best manage the risks posed by mutant forms of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu. The altered viruses are contagious between ferrets, which are the lab stand-in for humans. The fear is that these germs could potentially cause a deadly flu pandemic in people if they ever escaped the lab.

Scientists who created mutant forms of bird flu want to see their research published, and an influential advisory committee recently gave them the green light after a debate that lasted for months.

But one of the manuscripts is now being blocked from publication because of Dutch legal controls on the export of technology that could potentially be used for weapons.

It's just the latest example of how complicated international export control laws have affected the debate over what to do about two studies on bird flu.

A government advisory committee has reconsidered its advice to keep certain details of bird flu experiments secret.

Revised versions of manuscripts that describe two recent studies can be openly published, the committee now says. The decision could help end a contentious debate that has raged within the scientific community for months.

In response, the editors of two journals immediately said they planned to publish the research soon.

4blueyes / Flickr

Seems silly to talk about weaponized chickens, but that’s exactly the kind of talk world leaders have become afraid of.

The latest debate raging among scientists is whether to publish the results of recent experiments done on the bird flu virus. Those experiments have created a super deadly version of the H5N1 virus that could potentially be loosed by chickens (or other birds) and kill many tens of millions of people.

The scientific community is in serious kerfuffle right now about whether or not to publish the details of certain bird flu virus experiments.

Angry words are flying back and forth between experts – much like the proverbial behavior of chickens with their heads cut off. One commentator for Scientific American has even suggested banning all such research.

It’s all a bit much, and probably not good for science or for our global health. I would like to offer five reasons not to panic.

Read more on Humanosphere.