Researchers announce 60-day suspension to allow debate about security of their attempts to prevent spread of virus.
Scientists trying to prevent bird flu from killing millions of people have suspended their work because of fears they might accidentally cause the epidemic they hope to stop, according to a letter published on Friday in scientific journals. Researchers from around the world signed a letter in the Nature and Science journals in which they announced a 60-day suspension to allow a public debate about the security of their work. The letter comes after developments in the study of bird flu in which scientists have created a similar virus that can be passed between mammals.

Bird flu can only be caught by humans from birds such as chickens but it is usually lethal. Scientists fear that bird flu could mutate into a form that humans could catch from other humans. After the first world war, an influenza mutation (known as Spanish influenza) killed an estimated 40 million people.

Last year, the United States government asked scientific journals to restrict their coverage of the new developments in the study of bird flu out of fear that the information could be used by terrorists to create biological weapons.

Wendy Barclay, professor of influenza virology at Imperial College, London, one of the signatories of the letter, said the influenza research community was fully aware of the risks and benefits of their work.

“The idea of the 60-day pause is to allow time for everyone concerned, media, ethicists and scientists alike, to be involved in the debate,” she said. “It is imperative that we do not react on impulse but weigh up the benefits this type of research can bring and review again the appropriate ways to control dangerous pathogens that we work with in the closed laboratory.”

(Snip) Although research is carried out under high security, the possibility of human error, accident or a criminal act leading to an escape of the viruses is a constant concern.
Continued:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/20/bird-flu-scientists-epidemic-fears

Bangladesh
• CIDRAP: Bangladesh reports 3 H5N1 outbreaks on poultry farms

Bhutan
• Bird flu Advice not to use poultry products
• Another H5N1 outbreak in poultry

Canada
• Ontario: First flu case reported in Northumberland
• Ontario: Two local babies catch flu

China
• Hong Kong: H5N1 in wild bird

Colombia
• Danger! Relive the virus AH1N1 in Colombia

Egypt
• WHO confirms 2 human H5N1 cases

Greece
• Infant dies of H1N1 flu
• Libyan baby dies of swine flu in Greece: ministry

India
• Bird flu under control: Meghalaya govt
• Bad weather stalls culling operations

Indonesia
• Kemenkes: Boy Dies Due to Bird Flu
• Jakarta: U.S. Positive Bird Flu Death
• Bird Flu Cases Spread Through Tanjung Priok Pigeon
• WHO reports human H5N1 case (Link)
• Indonesia Health Minister Suspects Bird Flu is Immune to Drug

Mexico
• Mexico City: Two die of A(H1N1) swine flu in Mexico: official
• Nuevo Leon: Nine people with confirmed influenza virus A-H1N1

Russia
• Bird Flu: Let us not forget the Grim Reaper

Taiwan
• Flu threat expected to heighten as holiday nears

United States
• Flu Season May Strike Later This Year
• KY: Number Of Confirmed Flu Cases In Lexington Up To 37
• TX: Flu season gets under way in North Texas
• First U.S. Cell-Based Flu Vaccine Plant Awaits Pandemic
• MN: Fatal H1N1 case involved rare combination of mutations (CIDRAP)

Vietnam
• Vietnamese officials record bird flu death
• Bird flu kills 2 in Cambodia, Vietnam
• Vietnam, Cambodia report bird flu deaths
• Bird Flu Kills Vietnamese Youth
• After Cambodia, Bird Flu Also Grabbed a Life in Vietnam
• WHO confirms fatal human H5N1 case
• Officials fear spread of meningitis, bird flu
• Bird flu virus kills teen farmer in Vietnam

Research
• More labs close to deadly bird flu mutations: researcher
• New bird flu deaths, as influenza research debate continues
• H5N1 virus targets pulmonary endothelial cells
• Bird flu research halted to ensure safety of experiments

Commentary
• Recombinomics: H5N1 Clade 2.3.2.1 Migrates Into South Asia
• Recombinomics: H5N1 Fatal Cluster In Tanjung Priok North Jakarta Indonesia

• Recombinomics: Published H5N1 One Change From Efficient Transmission
• Recombinomics: Indonesia Confirms H5N1 Cluster In North Jakarta
• H5N1 Transmission Experiment Halt – Censorship Continues