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NEWS
January 26, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Another researcher whose work on the H5N1 avian flu has been delayed from publication because of the recommendations of a U.S. government advisory board, and who agreed to a 60-day moratorium on further work, has written that studies of the potentially dangerous virus -- including work that creates strains that might infect and sicken humans -- must go on. Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Tokyo and the University of Wisconsin-Madison's ...
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SCIENCE
April 4, 2013 | By Eryn Brown
The number of people sickened by the H7N9 bird flu virus climbed to 14 on Thursday -- and the death count jumped to five -- as the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture reported that it may have detected the virus in pigeon samples at a Shanghai poultry market. Officials in Shanghai began slaughtering birds at the market to slow spread of the disease, which so far has infected only people who come in close contact with birds and does not appear to pass from person to person.  That a place like Shanghai appears to be a center for the spread of H7N9, which wasn't known to sicken people before this outbreak, makes sense, said Trevon Fuller, a research fellow at UCLA's Center for Tropical Research . Fuller and colleagues recently published a study (see related items at left for Los Angeles Times coverage)
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NEWS
October 10, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Virologists making mutated versions of the H5N1 bird flu halted their research in January after a U.S. government advisory panel suggested that their work, though well-intentioned, had the potential to endanger the public . That voluntary moratorium was intended to last 60 days. Nearly nine months later, it remains in place, and scientists are still hashing out if, when and how the research might resume. In a series of essays commissioned this week by mBio, a journal published by the American Society for Microbiology, key players in the controversy set out their thoughts on the matter.
NEWS
March 19, 2013 | By Eryn Brown
No one knows where the next deadly pandemic flu is likely to emerge. But a new analysis of flu surveillance and other data from a UCLA-led team suggests that coastal and central China and Egypt's Nile Delta might be areas worth watching. UCLA postdoctoral researcher Trevon Fuller and colleagues published their work online on March 13 in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Emerging Infectious Diseases . The thinking behind their research goes something like this: Dangerous influenza outbreaks, including pandemics in 1957 and 1968 that killed around a million people apiece, arise when new, aggressive flu strains arise through a process known as reassortment.
NEWS
June 22, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
The upshot of months of controversy over whether to publish research that used the H5N1 avian flu virus -- experiments in which scientists engineered forms of the bug that could spread through the air to infect mammals -- was that scientists got to publish their work in full in a special issue of the journal Science on Thursday.  At the same time, the U.S. government and health officials around the world continued to ponder what...
SCIENCE
February 21, 2013 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
U.S. health officials announced plans for scientists to move forward with controversial research on the deadly H5N1 bird flu and said that any discoveries about how the virus might gain the ability to spread easily among humans should be shared with other scientists and the public. The new policy, released Thursday by the National Institutes of Health, requires that studies aimed at making the virus more dangerous would now be subject to a heightened level of review. Effective immediately, researchers will have to explicitly delineate the potential science and health benefits - as well as safety risks - involved in their work before they can get government funding, said Dr. Amy Patterson, NIH associate director for science policy.
SCIENCE
December 26, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
In a top-security lab in the Netherlands, scientists guard specimens of a super-killer influenza that slays half of those it infects and spreads easily from victim to victim. It is a beast long feared by influenza experts, but it didn't come from nature. The scientists made it themselves. Their noxious creation could help prevent catastrophe in the battle against the deadly H5N1 bird flu that has ravaged duck and chicken flocks across Asia and elsewhere since the mid-1990s but has mostly left our species alone — for one crucial reason.
SCIENCE
February 23, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
The World Health Organization says the H5N1 bird flu kills nearly 60% of people who become infected, but a study released Thursday suggests the true fatality rate may actually be much lower. Virologists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City examined data on blood samples collected from more than 12,000 people in Asia, Europe and Africa and found evidence of H5N1 infection in 1% to 2% of cases. Most of those people did not become ill with the flu, according to a report in the journal Science, and none of them died.
SCIENCE
June 21, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Scientists have created versions of the H5N1 bird flu that spread easily among mammals through droplets in sneezes and have concluded that it is certainly possible the deadly virus could trigger a global pandemic in humans. Writing in Friday's edition of the journal Science, Dutch researchers laid out for their fellow scientists - and the public - precisely how they engineered bird flu strains that were contagious in ferrets, laboratory animals often used as proxies for people in influenza research.
SCIENCE
January 23, 2013 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Bird flu researchers said Wednesday that they would end a self-imposed moratorium on controversial experiments to determine how the deadly H5N1 virus might mutate and gain the ability to spread easily among humans. In a statement published online by the journals Science and Nature, 40 scientists said they were poised to resume their investigations - but only in countries that have established clear rules for conducting the research safely. The U.S., which is the largest funder of influenza research, is not yet among those nations.
SCIENCE
February 21, 2013 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
U.S. health officials announced plans for scientists to move forward with controversial research on the deadly H5N1 bird flu and said that any discoveries about how the virus might gain the ability to spread easily among humans should be shared with other scientists and the public. The new policy, released Thursday by the National Institutes of Health, requires that studies aimed at making the virus more dangerous would now be subject to a heightened level of review. Effective immediately, researchers will have to explicitly delineate the potential science and health benefits - as well as safety risks - involved in their work before they can get government funding, said Dr. Amy Patterson, NIH associate director for science policy.
SCIENCE
January 23, 2013 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Bird flu researchers said Wednesday that they would end a self-imposed moratorium on controversial experiments to determine how the deadly H5N1 virus might mutate and gain the ability to spread easily among humans. In a statement published online by the journals Science and Nature, 40 scientists said they were poised to resume their investigations - but only in countries that have established clear rules for conducting the research safely. The U.S., which is the largest funder of influenza research, is not yet among those nations.
NEWS
October 10, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Virologists making mutated versions of the H5N1 bird flu halted their research in January after a U.S. government advisory panel suggested that their work, though well-intentioned, had the potential to endanger the public . That voluntary moratorium was intended to last 60 days. Nearly nine months later, it remains in place, and scientists are still hashing out if, when and how the research might resume. In a series of essays commissioned this week by mBio, a journal published by the American Society for Microbiology, key players in the controversy set out their thoughts on the matter.
NEWS
June 22, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
The upshot of months of controversy over whether to publish research that used the H5N1 avian flu virus -- experiments in which scientists engineered forms of the bug that could spread through the air to infect mammals -- was that scientists got to publish their work in full in a special issue of the journal Science on Thursday.  At the same time, the U.S. government and health officials around the world continued to ponder what...
SCIENCE
June 21, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Scientists have created versions of the H5N1 bird flu that spread easily among mammals through droplets in sneezes and have concluded that it is certainly possible the deadly virus could trigger a global pandemic in humans. Writing in Friday's edition of the journal Science, Dutch researchers laid out for their fellow scientists - and the public - precisely how they engineered bird flu strains that were contagious in ferrets, laboratory animals often used as proxies for people in influenza research.
NEWS
April 20, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
The U.S. government will support publication of two controversial research papers, officials said Thursday. The studies report details of experiments in which the deadly H5N1 influenza virus was engineered to pass between mammals, officials said Thursday. The decision, released via a statement by Dr. Francis Collins , director of the National Institutes of Health, lands three weeks after a U.S. government advisory board that had initially recommended against publication of the two studies changed its position after further consideration.  Members of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity voted unanimously in favor of publishing a manuscript prepared for the journal Nature by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  On a 12 to 6 vote, the group also approved publication of another paper, by Dutch virologist Ron Fouchier, in the journal Science.
SCIENCE
January 20, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
In an almost unheard-of move, scientists who study the deadly H5N1 bird flu announced a 60-day voluntary moratorium on studying the virus to allow time "to clearly explain the benefits of this important research and the measures taken to minimize its possible risks. " The statement, released Friday by the journals Science and Nature, comes soon after federal officials had asked the journals and two research teams to withhold details of experiments that showed the virus can be coaxed to a form that passes readily through the air from mammal to mammal.
NEWS
August 24, 2010
Before the H1N1 “swine flu” outbreak of last year, the big influenza worry concerned H5N1 . The so-called “bird flu” has infected people only 504 times since 2003, but in 299 cases it was deadly – a fatality rate of 59%, according to the World Health Organization. Scientists believe it is only a matter of time before migrating birds carry the H5N1 virus from eastern Asia to North America. Biologists have fanned out across Alaska to capture birds, swab their hindquarters and send the fecal samples to laboratories to look for evidence of H5N1 and other strains of bird flu. As you might imagine, the process is expensive and time-consuming.
NEWS
February 29, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
Laboratory-engineered strains of H5N1 influenza, also known as bird flu, aren't as dangerous as some have been led to believe, said a scientist involved in the controversial research Wednesday. The researcher, virologist Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, has been at the center of an ongoing debate about bird flu research among public health and biodefense officials. He made his comments at the American Society for Microbiology's Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research meeting, in Washington, D.C. Bird flu is lethal more than half of the time it strikes humans.
SCIENCE
February 23, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
The World Health Organization says the H5N1 bird flu kills nearly 60% of people who become infected, but a study released Thursday suggests the true fatality rate may actually be much lower. Virologists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City examined data on blood samples collected from more than 12,000 people in Asia, Europe and Africa and found evidence of H5N1 infection in 1% to 2% of cases. Most of those people did not become ill with the flu, according to a report in the journal Science, and none of them died.
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