The authors charge a progressive journalist with acting as a “shill” for neocon propaganda and disinformation on China. (Husseini’s article is also published, below.)
“Husseini is mistaken--or deeply dishonest--in suggesting that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was doing biowarfare research.”
Journalist Sam Husseini was once known for challenging the Neocon warmongers on the Iraq War in a former lifetime. He now seems to have joined them, becoming a promoter of anti-China neo-con conspiracy theories on the origins of Covid-19.
Husseini recently wrote a series of articles that recycle a large amount of right wing disinformation--alt-right fecal matter--and smeared them inside a juicy little hamburger of truth: the fact that the US engages in dangerous biowarfare research.
It is certainly true, if not really hot news, that the US has at least two dozen known biowarfare labs, many in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine. It’s unknown to what extent they comply with the regulations and oversight of the international bioweapons convention to which the US is a signatory.
It's also true that the US has a long history of biowarfare and biowarfare research, going back at least to the Korean war. The use of biowarfare--Anthrax, Bubonic Plague, Cholera, Encephalitis--in Korea was such an international scandal that an entire mythology of communist "brainwashing" was invented to discredit the captured American pilots that confessed to these very real crimes against humanity.
It's also true that accidental releases have happened from US biowarfare labs. For example, USAMRIID (Army biolab facility) at Fort Detrick was shut down in July, 2019 for leakage of contaminated waste.
But that said, Husseini is mistaken--or deeply dishonest--in suggesting that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was doing biowarfare research and thus possibly linked to the release of Covid-19 virus. It's unclear why he is saying this, but In doing so, he is recycling the thoroughly discredited rumors of Rush Limbaugh, Josh Rogin, Steve Bannon, Tom Cotton, Mike Pompeo, and other rightwing hawks and loons. In other words, a journalist, who in another life, made a modest reputation for challenging neocon propaganda and disinformation, is now functioning as one of its key shills.
This propaganda relies on four thinking errors or deceits.
Failure of common sense--the language con:
Husseini first pulls off this canard by arguing that there is no meaningful difference between biowarfare and biodefense. This is hardly true. Although there is always some overlap between basic science, medicine, preventive research, and warfare, there are also serious differences in emphasis, approach, practice, and funding that he glosses over. Husseini has to assert this tenuous proposition in order to implicate the Wuhan lab in suspected biowarfare malfeasance (or error), and to claim that there is a global biowarfare arms race between China and the US (rather than by the US against its opponents). That linguistic sleight of hand, in particular, the equivalence of biowarfare and biodefense is factually not true, and is certainly not true in one very obvious way regarding the Wuhan lab: if there were a biowarfare arms race happening around the world, the countries putatively at war with each other--the US and China--would not share or allow access to their labs to a competitor state, collaborate, or exchange their research and researchers. But the fact is the US was given wide access to the Wuhan Labs--not just scientists but also US State Department functionaries--as were French scientists. The Wuhan lab solicited US aid and funding. (Husseini seems to believe that biowarfare labs openly solicit funding from other countries). Scientists in the US and China collaborated and worked together collegially, trained each other, shared information, published papers, and still maintain some relations.
“The US was given wide access to the Wuhan Labs.”
As a point of contrast, no one, not a single Chinese national has ever set foot in Fort Dietrick, the key US biowarfare research lab. No Chinese university has ever collaborated with them. No Chinese funding has been directed to it. No one knows exactly what they are researching. This is not the case with Wuhan—there is knowledge which viruses they had, and published papers on what they were researching, how they were being researched, as well as what safety protocols were in place. If we take into consideration the fact that Chinese researchers are no longer welcome to do even basic research in the US at this point in time, it's inconceivable that the US would have been assisting the Chinese with weaponizing viruses that could potentially be used against them, or funding such work when even basic scientific research--and now graduate study in the sciences--is being obstructed in the US for the Chinese.
Until Husseini can refute this basic logic, it's not possible to give his claim about the Wuhan labs any credence, never mind the fact that he offers no proof whatsoever, only the conflating of science with weapons development, "coincidence", innuendo, and 3 degrees-removed-guilt-by-association.
Misinterpreting Research: The Science Con:
Husseini has also misread the article in Nature Medicine. This is one of several key articles that has refuted the "bioweapon" theory that he argues for. He misunderstands what the specifics of the RBD (receptor binding domain) and the furin cleavage site entail from an evolutionary perspective. This misunderstanding may be due to a lack of scientific literacy on his part, for which one can't fault him, except that he subjects this illiteracy onto others who are already confused or ignorant about the science. The Nature Medicine article argues--convincingly, if not conclusively--that natural selection, either in humans, or in an animal host is responsible for the very unique features of this novel virus: it demonstrates convincingly the fact that the virus could not have been engineered: a) it has no "backbone" that would correspond to or indicate that there is anything sequenced from existing components--it is truly novel b) the furin cleavage site of the spike protein--the part that makes the virus dangerous to humans--doesn't correspond to any existing known virus (it has no close homologues in the Bat CoV RatG13, or the Pangolin CoV). It also does not to correspond to any samples held in Wuhan. That means it could not have been lab-engineered.
The "Gain of Function" Con: Weasels, Ferrets, Monkeys, and Evolution
Husseini, however, is not one to gainsay his rigid views, and along with other far-right operatives, tries to misdirect further. Although the refutation of the Lab-created-bioweapon theory is a well-accepted conclusion in the scientific community and among medical and epidemiological professionals, Husseini argues that "gain of function" (weaponization of a virus) could have been induced by naturalmeans (by inducing passage through animals). He's trying to argue that SARS-CoV-2 could have been produced, by inducing natural evolution in the Wuhan lab in such a way that it would not show signs of engineering, and in a way that would weaponize it.
The Nature Medicine article refutes the possibility not just of genetic engineering, but also argues against naturally induced passage. Husseini is either misreading this conclusion, or is simply dishonest on this. In this, he misunderstands the nature of gain of function through animal passage--he seems to confound engineering zoonotic transfer with gain of function within animal-restricted viruses or viruses that are already known to infect humans. (The example of the H5N1 is such an example). This also disregards the fact that the closest existing known virus is Bat CoV RatG13, which has a 96% similarity with SARS CoV-2. That differential, although seemingly close, is comparable to 20-50 years of natural evolution, and not something that can be bred through short animal passage ("ten passages through ferrets") as Husseini implies in weasel prose. It's as if someone were arguing that the proverbial monkey typing randomly on a typewriter would come up with a Shakespeare monologue; or plunking away at a piano, would come up with a Beethoven Sonata after a few tries. It's possible mathematically/theoretically, and completely improbable in the time frames he imagines: yet another overlooked detail is that the BSL4 lab in the Wuhan institute of Virology has been operational for only 2 years.
Failure of Logic: The Leak Con:
As even the intelligence community itself has debunked the "engineered" lie, Husseini and his cohort merchants of mendacity (Josh Rogin, Mike Pompeo), then shift down to another back up lie: even if it wasn't lab-engineered, and even if there wasn't a lab-induced "natural" "gain of function," it's possible that the Wuhan lab had collected samples of this dangerous virus--captured in nature (from bats), and leaked it by accident. In his words, “The virus could have been found in the wild, studied in a lab and then released.”(Proponents of this lie often append some kind of "horror" story about researchers getting crapped on by bats, or that the researchers cooked and ate the lab animals or eggs, or sold them to the Wuhan market for pocket money).
Apart from the sheer absurdity of these cooked up assertions, this is an irrational, illogical argument: if it was captured from the wild, then it exists already in nature, and it's much more likely that the tens of millions of people around the world who routinely interact with or are exposed to bats would be vectors of zoonotic transfer, rather than a half dozen highly trained scientists who are trained in and mandated to adhere to the strictest biohazard safety standards and protocols—protocols which they themselves, as consummate professionals, helped pioneer.
.In other words, if it's already out in nature, it can't be leaked out to nature.
Also, according to American researchers who have worked there and trained staff, the lab itself, whenever it works with viruses--any virus--,deactivates them, so only inactive viruses are worked with. Reserve samples are stored in liquid nitrogen, making it unlikely that they could ever become virulent.
Last but not least, the virus researcher herself, Shi Zheng Li has stated categorically that the lab did not have any such samples, and therefore could not have leaked them. In other words, we have consensus among the expert scientific community, eye witness testimony, scientific analysis, logic, probability, and common sense on one hand all arguing against the "lab leak" conspiracy theory. On the other hand, there is innuendo, lies, conflation, misdirection, and wishful/magical thinking seemingly ungrounded in anything but racism and the need to demonize and divert blame.
Prosecutorial Misconduct: The "Journalism" Con:
It's a hard pill to swallow, but it’s clear that Husseini is no longer doing journalism here, but acting as a corrupt prosecutor would: the way thousands of innocent "suspects" are accused and railroaded in the American courts. This is especially clear when he cherry picks and weaponizes the statement of scientist Shi Zheng Li at Wuhan. Shi recalls asking herself, “If coronaviruses were the culprit… could they have come from our lab?” This might ordinarily be considered a statement of the conscientiousness and care of a researcher to exclude every conceivable possibility, the desire to leave no stone unturned—as a good scientist should. Husseini cherry picks this statement as implication of guilt both of the lab and the researcher, and then dismisses further and careful refutation by her:
“Why should the world take her word? As Ebright…[says] “A denial is not a refutation.”
Shi is considered an impeccable professional academic, honored by the French government (“Chevalier des Ordres Palmares Academiques”) for her contributions to science. That Husseini resorts to tarring a researcher who has dedicated her life to saving lives and advancing science in this sarcastic manner reveals much about him and his values.
Now, it's well known that Fort Detrick is a biowarfare institution, and that it was recently temporarily closed for certain violations. That fact is well established. It's also known that the US is doing biowarfare research in many other institutions.
If Husseini was simply arguing that dangerous biowarfare research is happening around the world, or in the US, he could have made that argument, and made it easily. It’s easy fare to highlight the known dangers, the known failures, as well as the history of biowarfare by the US. Even if he wanted to capitalize or sensationalize off the existing news cycle, he could have simply asserted, "although the Wuhan leak theory has been effectively discredited by the intelligence and scientific communities, we still have ample reason to be worried about other potential leaks and bioweapons research." There was no reason to bring the Wuhan lab into the biowarfare scare story, except that it feeds the conspiracies and the trolls, draws sensationalist, conspiratorial attention to his work, and gives support and succor to the endless bastinado of China-bashing.
“There was no reason to bring the Wuhan lab into the biowarfare scare story.”
What is to be made of someone who echoes extreme, debunked right wing lies while pretending to be critiquing them in generic terms?
These are some basic, commonsense questions that Husseini—and anyone implicating the Wuhan lab has to answer--even if we disregard all the science:
1. If there were a biowarfare arms race happening between the US and China--why would the Chinese government share or allow access to their labs to a competitor state, collaborate, or exchange their research and researchers?
2. If there were a biowarfare arms race happening between the US and China--why would the Chinese lab be [reduced to] soliciting funds from the US government?
3. Researchers of Chinese origin, or with Chinese ties, are hounded, surveilled, and practically banished from doing even basic research in the US at this point in time. They were terminated from MD Anderson's cancer research, for example. In this witch hunt environment, why would the US be assisting the Chinese with weaponizing viruses that might theoretically be used against them?
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. They also require a modicum of logic.
Until Husseini (and his co-conspiracy-truthers) can coherently answer these questions, they are trafficking in contradiction, conspiracy, and absurdities.
From Absurdities to Atrocities:
The right wing corporate media, the MSM, members of the administration, the Secretary of State, the President, key senators, right wing think tanks and institutions, GOP talking points, Steve Bannon, the Committee on the Present Danger, Falun Gong, right wing fascists around the world, extreme far right crackpots-- all have been touting and stoking the lie that China is responsible one way or another for the virus. This propaganda has been echoed across the political spectrum, and "catapulted" 24 hrs/day, across all media—highbrow, low brow, broadsheet, tabloid, at the center and on the margins, we have been swimming in a morass of lies and deceit.
Nevertheless, every single one of these lies has been carefully shown to be without merit. As this has happened there has been a continually retrenchment, recycling, and refurbishing of the lies. First, there was the allegation that Covid was strictly a "communist" virus--something that could only arise in a depraved communist state—hundreds of thousands of dead put paid to that statement, showing the danger when ideology supersedes science. Then there was the allegation that there was some sort of cover up. As the facts came out, the duration of this coverup shrank from months, weeks, to days and looks likely be reduced to hours or minutes. There was also the allegation that it was spread deliberately by planes (full of infectious people) that flew out of Wuhan. That was easily debunked with actual flight schedules. Then the lie that the Chinese hid and hoarded PPE and masks (as if 4 Billion masks exported in a few weeks were hoarding). Virus "made in China", and the virus "leaked by China" are the ugly, exhausted ends of these absurd libels and lies.
“Every single one of these lies has been carefully shown to be without merit.”
By spreading the lies and errors behind this lie, Husseini is aligning with, or at least feeding those extreme, hate-filled politics and ideas.
Why would Husseini cast his lot with these crackpots? Only Husseini can answer this.
This type of propaganda should be very familiar to him. It fits a readily recognizable pattern: it's simply a recycling of the WMD template during the run up to the Iraq War that he once opposed. That war, too, had its own WMD biowarfare labs: "mobile weapons labs" and other “dodgy dossiers” and “satellite pictures” that were shown to be false, as they have also been concocted for Wuhan. (The "labs" in question, were hydrogen generation units for weather balloons). Collin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair, and other powerful purveyors of systemic mendacity argued up and down the court that these were dangerous to the world--until they slinked off in infamy. Yet some people still believe these lies to be true.
We know that Covid-19 is raging throughout the world, creating untold suffering and pain, causing needless deaths, and ravaging entire countries and economies. As it does so, it is fundamentally revealing and delegitimating the existing structures of power that have brought us to the edge of this catastrophe, in particular, the US-imposed, neoliberal, imperialist-capitalist structures of the global economy. China, outside of that circuit of control, looks to have successfully controlled the virus for the moment, and is regrouping and restarting. At the current moment, China seems to offer one alternative model: a better, people-centered approach to public health, governance, and development. As the jubilant schadenfreude against China suddenly turned to jealous rage for its successes in containment, the desire to re-direct confusion and outrage outward against the Chinese became evident: it ties to the current global moment where the US is losing its global “leadership” status, during an election season that needs to distract and redirect blame, and in a historical moment where the US has declared China an enemy, waged hybrid warfare, and is rooting around for reasons to further escalate hostilities against it. This is the reason for the ceaseless propaganda war--the absurdities pronounced daily and relentlessly, the absurdities, as Voltaire put it, that prepare you for atrocities: the atrocity of kinetic war.
Are Husseini and other hack “journalists” the “good Germans” in this war? Time will tell.
But in the meantime, no self-respecting human--with a smidgen of scientific knowledge or good sense--should give any space to these ideas.
Here are some articles and presentations debunking the theory:
Nature Medicine article
Nature Medicine article, explained
The Lancet Statement
Moon of Alabama debunks the theory and shows the media circuit.
K.J. Noh is a scholar, journalist, peace activist, and special correspondent to KPFA Flashpoints.
Claudia Chaufan, MD, PhD, directs the graduate program in health policy at York University
SAM HUSSEINI’S ORIGINAL ARTICLE IS BELOW
The Long History of Accidental Laboratory Releases of Potential Pandemic Pathogens Is Being Ignored In the COVID-19 Media Coverage
by Sam Husseini
Many people are dismissing the possibility that the COVID-19 pandemic might have come from a lab. It is possible that they are unaware of the frequency of biohazards escaping from laboratories.
On Feb. 11, I asked Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s Principal Deputy Director, at the National Press Club if it were a “complete coincidence” that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus happened in Wuhan, a center of China’s declared biowarfare/biodefence capacity. I got an answer that was remarkably evasive. She wouldn’t answer my followup question about whether the claimed “zoonotic origin” precluded the outbreak from being caused by pathogens from nature that then could be accidentally leaked from the labs.
But neither are the facts always being provided to the public. A search on “Democracy Now” shows that the first time the program mentioned “Wuhan” and “lab” or “laboratory” was on April 6 — to credit “the Wuhan lab that identified the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.” Mainstream outlets at least reported the existence of the lab to their audiences in a somewhat timely manner, even if they distorted the information.
And skew the information they did.
Forbes (3/17/20) published the piece “No, COVID-19 Coronavirus Was Not Bioengineered. Here’s The Research That Debunks That Idea,” which depends on a misreading of a strange and misleading Nature Medicine article to dismiss the notion that it came out of a lab. The Forbes senior contributor on health, Bruce Y. Lee wrote: “it’s a lot easier to leak a pocket of air though your butt than a virus from a BSL-4 facility.” Apparently this was supposed to be reassuring.
Similarly CNN (4/6/20) mocked the notion of a lab leak when re-assessing the source of the pandemic, describing one possibility being that: “It leaked — like a genie out of a bottle — from a lab in an accident.”
But even a cursory look at the record shows that these labs, where ever they exist, have a lot of accidents — just from 2019, the New York Times (8/5/19) reported: “Deadly Germ Research Is Shut Down at Army Lab Over Safety Concerns”, an article about Fort Detrick in Maryland: “Problems with disposal of dangerous materials led the government to suspend research at the military’s leading biodefense center.” (The local paper, the Frederick News-Post has provided some coverage, including publishing letters by local activist Barry Kissin.)
USA Today had a reporter on this beat, Alison Young, but she left the paper. A sampling of her work:
“Hundreds of bioterror lab mishaps cloaked in secrecy” (8/17/14)
“Worker at Tulane possibly exposed to bioterror bacteria” (3/11/15)
“CDC failed to disclose lab incidents with bioterror pathogens to Congress” (6/23/16):
“GAO finds more gaps in oversight of bioterror germs studied in U.S.”:
“Government regulators have no idea how often laboratories working with some of the world’s most dangerous viruses and bacteria are failing to fully kill vials of specimens before sending them to other researchers who lack critical gear to protect them against infection, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.” (9/21/16)
“Congress demands details of secret CDC lab incidents revealed by USA TODAY” (1/17/17)
Even since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Nature reported: “Chinese institutes investigate pathogen outbreaks in lab workers.” (12/17/19)
Then, on April 16, “Democracy Now” interviewed Peter Daszak of the EcoHealth Alliance. Daszak is an interested party. He has worked with and helped fund the coronavirus experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He dismissed the prospect of lab release outright. The episode was headlined: “’Pure Baloney’: Zoologist Debunks Trump’s COVID-19 Origin Theory, Explains Animal-Human Transmission.”
Listeners to “Democracy Now” were not given elementary facts about the history of lab accidents. They were also not told that among the policy advisors for EcoHealth Alliance are David Franz, a former commander at Fort Detrick, the principle U.S. government biowarfare/biodefence facility and Thomas Geisbert, who is doing biodefence/biowarfare work at Galveston National Laboratory. EcoHealth Alliance partners include universities but also major corporations like Johnson & Johnson and Colgate Palmolive. Most importantly the EcoHealth Alliance has worked with USAID to fund dangerous collaborative work between scientists in the U.S. and in Wuhan.
According to Daszak they are simply trying to defend against pandemics. This requires collecting and even creating dangerous pathogens for the stated purpose of defending against them.
But, to Richard Ebright of Rutgers University, an eminent scientist and one of the few who scrutinize the well-funded biodefense/biowarfare networks, this is all incredibly dangerous:. Ebright calls it “Not ‘vaccine research.’ Not research that provides information useful for preventing or combatting outbreaks. Just reckless pseudo-scientific Indiana-Jones adventurism with high risk of infection of collector, and from there, infection of public.” He also charges that collecting thousands of such viruses is the “Definition of insanity.”
Interestingly, even the researcher who Daszak’s group supports at the Wuhan Institute of Virology says that she was initially quite concerned that the lab was the source. Shi Zhengli was profiled by Scientific American, (March 11, 2020) “How China’s ‘Bat Woman’ Hunted Down Viruses from SARS to the New Coronavirus“: “If coronaviruses were the culprit, she remembers thinking, ‘could they have come from our lab?’ … Shi breathed a sigh of relief when the results came back: none of the sequences matched those of the viruses her team had sampled from bat caves. ‘That really took a load off my mind,’ she says. ‘I had not slept a wink for days.'”
She seems more self reflective than Daszak, but why should the world take her word? As Ebright at Rutgers states: “A denial is not a refutation.”
In fact, there is no doubt that Fox News Channel, Senator Tom Cotton, and others are clearly trying to demonize China and portray Chinese labs as uniquely dangerous. The liberal counter to this is that Chinese labs are great, like U.S. labs. Excluded from this “discussion” is the obvious truth: These labs are all dangerous and there is no meaningful distinction between biowarfare and biodefence. The U.S. has effectively spurred a bioweapons arms race, as documented by Francis Boyle in his Biowarfare and Terrorism (2005).
By not taking on the issue of biowarfare, the left is effectively turning it over to the prowar right which is weaponizing it against China. The better tack, surely, is to take a comprehensive approach to ensure a bioweapons arms race doesn’t continue to threaten humanity.
On Fox, Sen. Cotton stated that U.S. labs do work that is “in large part done for preventative purposes,” like “trying to discover vaccines.” In contrast, “China is obviously very secretive about what happens at the Wuhan laboratory.” (FNC 2/16/20) In fact, all countries who do this work are secretive. Much of the rightwing coverage in the U.S. on this issue has been led by the reporting of Bill Gertz in the Washington Times whose books include The China Threat: How the People’s Republic Targets America and, from 2019: Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy.
Similarly, Josh Rogin’s reporting in the Washington Post, “State Department cables warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses” emanates from self serving elements of the U.S. government.
If current dynamics continue, the rightwing will use the issue of biolabs to demonize China, and perhaps other states, without there being any serious scrutiny applied to bioweapons work by the U.S. and its allies (Israel has not even signed the Biological Weapons Convention).
While some seek to demonize China, others, like David Ignatius of the Washington Post are calling for the U.S. and Chinese governments to work together. As are some Chinese officials. That can be a very dangerous proposition as well. Consider the dynamics of the other major weapon threatening humanity: nuclear weapons. The U.S. and Russia are effectively colluding to maintain their geopolitical power by maintaining their nuclear weapons stockpiles. They have blocked moves toward a nuclear weapons ban — an effort backed at the UN by 122 countries. There has been precious little discussion about this issue even though the group behind the effort, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, once won the Nobel Peace Prize. I challenged this collusion by asking about it at the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki but was dragged out of the hall, shackled, thrown in the back of a police vehicle and detained for six hours.
Following the 9/11 anthrax attacks, which likely originated in U.S. government labs — the U.S. government perversely and dramatically escalated spending on “biodefence” — building more labs all over the country, training hundreds if not thousands of more scientists to work on the planet’s most dangerous pathogens. This spending approximates to about five billion dollars each year since the anthrax attacks.
On April 21, the Times published the piece “How Scientists Could Stop the Next Pandemic Before It Starts,” about Daszak and friends, complete with fancy graphic, in which the Times states: “Researchers believe they could pre-emptively create vaccines and drugs to fight a wide range of viral threats — if they can get sufficient funding.”
So, while we still don’t know if the cause of the pandemic wasn’t this dangerous lab work, the people doing it — who are well funded already — are getting pieces into the New York Times effectively beating down the door for even more money.
And Ft. Detrick is about to get what appears to be the biggest and expensive “biodefense” lab ever built.
Still sanguine about the labs? In 2018, the Federal Select Agent Program “received eight reports of loss and 193 reports of a release of a biological select agent or toxin.”
Or try reading this excellent 2014 paper — “Laboratory Escapes and ‘Self-fulfilling prophecy’ Epidemics” — by Martin Furmanski of the Scientist’s Working Group on Chemical and Biologic Weapons and the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation (versions of it were published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Slate):
He warned of “The danger to world or regional public health from the escape from microbiology laboratories of pathogens capable of causing pandemics, or Potentially Pandemic Pathogens (PPPs).”
Furmanski documented smallpox accidental releases in Britain in the 1970s, which eventually led to the head of the lab committing suicide, Venezuelan equine encephalitis in 1995, foot-and-mouth disease in Britain in 2007 which began “4 kilometers from a biosafety level 4 laboratory.”
More recently, he notes: “SARS has not naturally recurred, but there have been six separate ‘escapes’ from virology labs studying it: one each in Singapore and Taiwan, and in four distinct events at the same laboratory in Beijing. …
“It should be emphasized that these examples are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ because they represent laboratory accidents that have actually caused illness outside of the laboratory in the general public environment. …
“Public awareness of the 1977 H1N1 pandemic and its likely laboratory origins has been virtually absent. Virologists and public health officials with the appropriate sophistication were quickly aware that a laboratory release was the most likely origin, but they were content not to publicize this, aware that such embarrassing allegations would likely end the then nascent cooperation of Russian and Chinese virologists, which was vital to worldwide influenza surveillance. …
“It is hardly reassuring that despite stepwise technical improvements in containment facilities and increased policy demands for biosecurity procedures in the handling of dangerous pathogens, that escapes of these pathogens regularly occur and cause outbreaks in the general environment. Looking at the problem pragmatically, question is not if such escapes will happen in the future, but rather what the pathogen may be and how such an escape will be contained, if indeed it can be contained at all.
“Advances in genetic manipulation now allow the augmentation of virulence and transmissibility in dangerous pathogens, and such experiments have been funded and performed, notably in the H5N1 avian influenza virus. The advisability of performing such experiments at all, and particularly in laboratories placed at universities in heavily populated urban areas, where laboratory personnel who are potentially exposed are in daily contact with a multitude of susceptible and unaware citizens is clearly in question. If such manipulations should be allowed at all, it would seem prudent to conduct them in isolated laboratories where personnel are sequestered from the general public and must undergo a period of ‘exit quarantine’ before re-entering civilian life.”
Sam Husseini is an independent journalist and founder of VotePact.org, which encourages principled progressives and conscientious conservatives to work together.
This article first appeared on Sam Husseini’s website.
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