H5N1 is a type of virus that mainly affects the birds causing serious respiratory problems to them. This disease is generally called the ‘bird flu’ or (in medical terms) avian influenza. Researchers have discovered that this virus group is transmissible from mammals to humans and hence Alessandro Vespignani, (one of the many network scientists working on this topic) a professor of Physics at Northeastern University spoke about the motivations and implications of research in this area.
Vespignani says that though the H5N1 virus spreads mainly among birds, swine or horses, humans can also come in contact if they live close to poultry farms. It becomes lethal when it starts affecting humans which increase the mortality rate. Though it is incapable of spreading from humans to humans but in case it becomes capable, it will be a new pandemic. There have been many kinds of researches held in the Netherlands, Japan, and the University of Wisconsin which have found that the virus is transmissible between ferrets. And ferrets are similar biological models of humans and therefore, the virus also has a chance of spreading among humans.
Speaking about the safety concerns, people think that scientists are dealing with a dangerous virus that can go out of the lab but, on the contrary, scientists deal with true scientific questions and are worried for the people who might have to suffer a lot if they are affected by the virus. Also, there will be a chance that it might be used as a biological weapon and that it would promote bioterrorism. This research can help us understand the rate of viral transmissibility and lethality.
There have been restrictions imposed by many institutions on this research out of which one is the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, as the details of these studies will be open to everybody and people will be able to reach the final product without knowing the methods to it. Therefore, the H5N1 virus is similar to small pox and it needs proper permission and validation to be worked and researched upon.