If you were a scientist, surely the last thing you’d think of doing would be pissing about with the H5N1 avian flu virus, to make it more contagious to humans. After all, that would be pointless and dangerous, would it not?
So why did a reckless bugger called Ron Fouchier, at the Erasmus Medical Centre, in Rotterdam, think for one moment that this was a good idea?
Before Fouchier had his fuckwit moment, H5N1 was quite difficult for humans to catch – you had to be in close and prolonged contact with infected birds – and human to human transmission was very rare. It is virulent, though, and of the approximately 600 known cases, half have died
What this guy has done is forced the virus to mutate – and let’s face it, flu viruses don’t need an awful lot of encouragement – so that the version he now has is capable of airborne, human-human transmission.
I wonder if this idiot has ever read Stephen King’s “The Stand” in which King posits a very similar scenario, which sees the release of the virus into the world at large – with entirely predictable results.
What needs to be done, before Fouchier’s virus makes a bid for freedom via human fuckuppery is that every last vestige of it should be destroyed, and Fouchier removed to a post where he can’t possibly do this again – Compost Monitor in a market garden perhaps.
I mean, even if he’s never read The Stand (and the first half of the book should be compulsory reading for people, like Fouchier, who get an urge to play god), he must surely have stumbled across Murphy’s Law – which says that what can go wrong will go wrong.
There’s an article here about this, which ends with the words:-
“However the very same data, if made available to the scientific community, could potentially allow humanity to prepare for an H5N1 pandemic,** which Fouchier’s study has shown to be far more probable*** than was previously believed.”
**Which will only happen naturally under extremely exceptional circumstances, if at all.
***Conveniently omitting to mention that Fouchier’s activities have, themselves, massively ramped up that risk.
And for the record, you can’t manufacture a vaccine based on data – you need samples of the virus for that, and in its distribution is where the very real danger lies.
Look *sighs* I know that there are highly lethal viruses and bacteria in labs around the world, and as long as they stay there, there is little risk (the risk is never zero when people are involved). In this situation, they’ll need to distribute the virus to vaccine manufacturer’s around the world and that, as I said, is a high-risk proposition.