December 22, 2011. Madison, Wisc. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, along with another team in the Netherlands, have created a new biological super weapon. With a kill rate of over 50 percent in its natural form, the new super-virus created in the two labs may be even more deadly now that the experiment has concluded successfully. While the US government is asking the two teams to censor themselves for fear of the information going public, others wonder just how safe the super weapon is sitting inside a college locker in Wisconsin.
Univ of Wisconsin at Madison, home of the world's newest super-weapon, an airborne version of the deadly Asian Bird Flu. Image courtesy of MyUWMadison.com.
With the proud scientists eager to publish the success of their new super-weapon, governments across the globe are scrambling to insure the secrets of how the super-bug was created do not reach the hands of terrorists. According to the New York Times, this is the first time ever that the US Government is asking scientific journals to censor themselves. Unfortunately, according to the scientists themselves, the process is relatively easy.
The new super-weapon is a new laboratory-created strain of the Asian Bird Flu. Also known as A(H5N1), the virus typically only exists in bird populations. Occasionally however, the virus does get transferred to humans. In those very rare instances, the germ is incredibly deadly to those humans and easily transferrable from one human to another. Close body contact is all that’s required to pass the germ in its natural form. According to the same NY Times research, since the virus first appeared in 1997, about 600 people have contracted the disease. More than half of those cases were fatal.
With such a deadly virus in their hands, world governments were bound to turn the germ into a super-weapon sooner or later. The new weapon, as described by scientists, involves altering the bird flu virus into an airborne form that can be simply sprayed into the air like hairspray and then transmitted in a similar way by coughing or sneezing. Entire populations, especially in densely populated areas, would be infected within hours. With its newly altered state making it easily transmitted from one human to another, and with a kill rate of over 50 percent, this super-flu could wipe out more than half the globe’s population.
The editor of ‘Science’, one of the publications asked to censor itself, didn’t see any problem with the request. While many in the science community are crying foul over the US government’s request, the publication is taking the opposite stance. “I wouldn’t call this censorship,” Editor Dr. Bruce Alberts said to the Times, “This is trying to avoid inappropriate censorship. It’s the scientific community trying to step out front and be responsible.”
Dr. Alberts went on to explain why he didn’t mind being censored, “This finding shows it’s much easier to evolve this virus to an extremely dangerous state where it can be transmitted in aerosols than anybody had recognized.”
The purpose of the new super-weapon
According to the scientists that created the germ, their intent was to study just how easy it would be to turn the deadly Asian Bird Flu into an easily transmittable super-flu – a weapon of mass destruction. The next theoretical step being – if we can create it, so can the terrorists’ scientists. And if the terrorists’ scientists can create it, Western scientists needed to create it first so they could develop a vaccine in time to protect the world from the terrorist attack using the new biological weapon. Now, the world may be a victim of its own success.
“I’m sure there will be some people who say these experiments never should have been done” wrote the NY Times of Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases. The Independent out of England quoted a source inside the US Government, speaking on condition of anonymity, relaying the fear some have regarding the new weapon. “The fear is that if you create something this deadly and it goes into a global pandemic, the mortality and cost to the world could be massive” the scientist explained, “The worst-case scenario here is worse than anything you can imagine."
Who’s guarding the new super-weapon?
Critics have not only questioned the need and ethics of creating such a deadly weapon, but also the security in place to guard it. The University of Wisconsin isn’t a military facility. A source close to the US Government’s Biosecurity Board told the Independent, “There are people who say that the work should never have been done, or if it was done it should have been done in a setting where the information could be better controlled."
He went on to explain, “It's scary from a number of different angles. You want to have the vaccines and therapeutics in place, and you need to have as much information as you can about a particular virus, but you also worry about it from a biosecurity perspective."
Aside from the absence of anti-terrorist, military and biosecurity measures at the University of Wisconsin, critics also point to the obvious flaw in the government’s assurances that the general population is in no danger. This wouldn’t be the first time that deadly bio-weapons have escaped from their laboratories and into the general public. The 1977 flu epidemic is just one example.
The science journals are still debating which parts of the study to publish and which parts to black-out. At the same time, other scientists throughout the globe are already lobbying for their right, “as responsible scientists”, to see the documents. With a new super-weapon that can wipe out more than half the world with one small, local attack, it’s probably a sure bet some rogue nation will get their hands on it sooner or later.
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