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Health experts say controversial bird flu research should be published

A blue-ribbon panel at the World Health Organization has decided that two controversial bird flu studies should go forward and be published in full.

Just not yet — not until the public has been inoculated against premature anxiety and hysteria. Here’s WHO’s press release on the meeting.

“The group felt that one of the things that would be important to do is to increase public awareness first,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, WHO director general for health and environmental security.

“There are lots of concerns about whether this (research) has created a super virus, whether it might escape from laboratories,” Fukuda said.He said the panel recommended full publication and ongoing similar studies on the bird flu virus, H5N1, but not until the public is better educated about the true risks and benefits of the science.

“So that there isn’t a new wave of anxiety created by the manuscripts coming out,” Fukuda said.

Meanwhile, the editor of the journal Science, Bruce Alberts, said today he intends to publish the bird flu study they have in hand if the scientific community can’t agree on a workable alternative that adequately balances the need for free and open exchange of information against biosecurity concerns. Alberts told the BBC:

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Vancouver, he said: “Our position is that, in the absence of any mechanism to get the information to those scientists and health officials who need to know and need to protect their populations and to design new treatments and vaccines, our default position is that we have to publish in compete form.”



About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.