Posted: August 12th, 2013
I do not support the two months moratorium on the H5N1 virus studies that make it transmissible to mammals just for purposes of clarifying controversies over the risks involves with the avian flu experiments. On the other hand, everybody has a right to information that affects the public. However, if there is a biological security risk involved, it is better to protect everybody. Thus, I do agree on the omission of a detailed report in publications of the H5N1 research results from the scientists. The biggest advantage or benefit of such an experiment is preventing future pandemics or controlling them should they occur. However, one reason that some people feel information should be restricted is the likelihood of creation of biological weapons, or even an accident within the research sites that could release the virus to cause a pandemic. Thus, it is important to consider this issue quite seriously considering the virus has been a threat to poultry and has affected humans in occasions.
The research moratorium provides a benefit to the researches as well as the other parties involved of clarifying issues. With a moratorium, the researchers will have time to concentrate of clarifying the benefits as well as providing information on how they are taking care of the risks involved such as prevention of accidents that could release the transmissible virus to the population. With this clarification, the researches will eliminate and doubts from the involved bodies about continuing with the research. On the other hand, a moratorium wastes valuable time that could be used for research. Halting the research has its consequences considering some experiments might have to be started over from beginning again. Additionally, clarifying the benefits and risk minimizing measures can be done while the research is ongoing.
With the publication issues, I do agree that the researchers should not share the information with everybody. Rather, it should be shared with those that need it. According to News & Analysis (2012), “…but others are worried that the studies could provide a blueprint for the creation of a bioweapon…” (P. 387). This would raise the risk of creating biological weapons for terrorist operations, which could risk the lives of many people. With the current level of terrorist activities worldwide, it is risky risking such information. The selection criteria for people to receive the results and methods as well as procedures should be selected according to health organizations in areas affected by the virus. “In our opinion, identification of relevant parties should be done liberally and should include the public health services of countries where H5N1 virus has infected humans, poultry, and other animals in recent history” (Fouchier, Herfst & Osterhaus, 2012 P. 663).
The biggest benefit of such research is the ability to identify a means of preventing a pandemic from happening, as well as coming up with control measures in case a pandemic was to happen. Through such a research, means through which the virus could mutate to affect human beings is identified, and measures to prevent implemented. Additionally, with the creation of a more transmissible virus, a vaccine can be created to prevention. According to News & Analysis (2012), “The researchers say the work offers benefits for preventing flu pandemics,” (P387). Thus, considering there is a possibility of the virus affecting human beings in the future after mutation, it is worth to be sure of the possibility rather than to wait until it happens.
One of the disadvantages caused by the research is the potential for accidents that would release such a virus to the population. This would cause a pandemic that would be hard to control and fast spreading. Additionally, it would mean death to many people who contract it. Therefore, this requires taking extra care when handling the created virus to avoid any such risk from claiming lives. Thus, I do agree with the omission of detailed data in the publication for the sake of ensuring security, but do not see the need of the moratorium to clarify benefits and risk containment measures that can be done while the research is ongoing.
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