Policy ForumPublic Health and BIosecurity

H5N1 Debates: Hung Up on the Wrong Questions

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Science  17 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6070, pp. 799-801
DOI: 10.1126/science.1219066

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Over the past few months, there has been an ever-increasing debate, echoed by the media, about the wisdom of publishing the details of two studies that have looked at the respiratory transmission potential of the so-called “bird flu” (H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses or H5N1 HPAIV). Some voices have gone as far as asking for stopping or restricting this type of research. In the next paragraphs, I would like to argue against such calls and argue that it is important for this research to be continued under the current conditions. It is also important that the information gathered from these studies finds the necessary channels to benefit public health worldwide. The attention on this issue should be redirected to the larger problem of how to eradicate a bird flu that has the capacity to affect us on a global scale.