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11 Mar 2013 08:35 AM

Restricting publication of H5N1 research 'more perilous' than threat of biological warfare

In this Reuters opinion piece, New York-based writer Peter Christian Hall responds to "the U.S. government's move to restrict publication of vital research into H5N1 avian flu," writing, "This unprecedented interference in the field of biology could hinder research and hamper responsiveness in distant lands plagued by H5N1," yet "no one seems to be challenging a key assumption -- that H5N1 could make a useful weapon. It wouldn't."

He provides a brief history of biological warfare, including a link to a Nova slideshow on the topic, and writes that a flu strain has never been used as a weapon "for good reason" -- "Influenza in general is an equal-opportunity menace" that would "put at great risk anyone trying to assemble a pandemic H5N1 to launch at 'target' populations." He concludes, "The public should certainly be concerned about unbridled transport of potentially pandemic flu strains. ... Letting the U.S. government suppress promising scientific work by controlling who can research it and who can assess the results strikes me as the more perilous development" (1/9).

This article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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