Credit CDC PHIL
Somehow, between the Ebola news, and the fact that it was published on Wednesday (instead of mBio’s normal Tuesday publication date), I missed the following editorial by Arturo Casadevall and Michael J. Imperiale in the open-access journal mBio.
It is a long, thoughtful look at the complex issues at hand. Follow the link to read it in its entirety.
1 August 2014
Arturo Casadevall and Michael J. Imperiale
Influenza virus is one of a handful of infectious disease agents that can cause devastating pandemics with high mortality and morbidity in human populations. The human species is vulnerable to zoonotic infection with new influenza viruses, with the last occurring as recently as 2009. Influenza kills thousands of people each year, and the world is continuously confronting new epidemics. Today the complexity and interconnectivity of our society create vulnerabilities, such that pandemics with even low mortality have the potential to cause widespread suffering and economic disruption. Epidemics can have catastrophic effects on the social order and result in the disruption of benefits that we associate with current society, such as law and order and reliable food distribution (for a vivid and dramatic representation of the effect of epidemics on society, readers are invited to see the movie Contagion, where an outbreak with a new fictional virus leads to the breakdown of the social order). Hence, epidemics pose existential threats to civil society even when morbidity and mortality occur in a fraction of those infected. Given the biological characteristics of the influenza virus that ensure the continuous generation of antigenic variability, this virus poses a continuous extant threat, with the likelihood of new pandemics being determined by variables that remain poorly understood. In this environment, the influenza virus research community is humanity’s best defense against influenza virus. Consequently, anything that impacts influenza virus research is of utmost importance to societal well-being.
For more on this controversial debate, you may wish to revisit: