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A Crime Against Humanity

As most people probably know by now, virologists have resurrected what may be the most deadly disease in human history.

The virus had not been seen since the pandemic of 1918/19 when it killed an estimated 20 to 100 million people world wide. The disease was essentially extinct.

So scientists dug up someone's body who had died of the disease and had been buried in the Canadian permafrost. Using reverse genetic engineering they used the viral remnants they found to recreate the virus. Along the way they tested the virus in animals and most recently reported that eight to ten monkeys inoculated with the most complete version became morbidly ill almost immediately after experimental infection and were "humanely" killed eight days later as their lungs filled with blood and mucus.

The common estimate of the world's human population in 1900 is about 1,600,000,000. Assuming that the disease killed 40 million people, this would mean that the Spanish influenza killed about 2.5% of the world's population at a time when there were no airplanes, no jet travel.

Casting this on today's stage, a 2.5% fatality rate would mean the death of about 163 million people. (If the flu actually did kill 100 million in 1918/19 this would equate to about 390 million people.)

Given the ease at which people move around the planet today, there is no reason to assume that the infection rate would be anything but higher than it was in 1918.

Now the good news:

The virus will be studied by researchers around the world. The recent chilling account of Plum Island in Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory (2004) makes it pretty clear that biocontainment is anything but fail-safe.

FYI: At a public meeting in Dunn, Wisconsin, University officials tried to convince the citizens that a BSL-4 lab -- alledgedly intended to replace Plum Island -- would be a good thing for the community. They admitted that not one of the University "experts" had read this harrowing account.

The continuing reports by the Sunshine Project make it pretty clear that accidents happen pretty regularly, that the biowarriors concocting the secret bioweapons are pretty dumb and arrogant, and that each and every BSL-3 and BSL-4 lab around the globe is about as safe as the space shuttle.

On a more comforting note, in a private email we were told that animal caretakers talk about monkeys used in Yoshi Kawaoka's lab being infected with dangerous viruses and escaping from their cages when handled by unsupervised graduate students.

Trust the government. The scientists know best. Go back to sleep.

See UW Madison's self-congratulatory announcements about these "breakthroughs":

Study uncovers a lethal secret of 1918 influenza virus
October 17, 2007

Gene from 1918 virus proves key to virulent influenza
October 6, 2004

Resurrecting an extinct virus known to have been the most deadly disease yet encountered must rank as one of the greatest crimes in human history. At some point in the future, when the virus escapes or is unleashed as a weapon, let us remember that at the forefront of the work to reawaken this scourge was the University of Wisconsin, and that no one associated with the University said a word in opposition.

 

Madison's Hidden Monkeys is a joint project of the
Alliance for Animals and the
Primate Freedom Project