So after mentioning that I had watched Contagion recently and posting some musings about pandemic/bird flu fears, which is in the background of my new novel, The Bird Saviors, I was slightly taken aback by the recent news that two separate teams of scientists, in the Netherlands and in Wisconsin (though working together, as I understand it), have succeeded in creating a SuperFlu in the lab, the kind that some have said could naturally occur in mutation. Contagion imagines a scenario in which bats (which really aren’t birds, but anyway) defecate into hog farms, and the virus becomes airborne-transmissible through this cross-species mutation. That’s standard virus-mutation theory. The two teams of researchers created this airborne-transmissible bird flu (with potential mortality rates of 50%, which is devastation-level) using ferrets as the cross-species animal, and state that they have done so to understand how this could happen. (It’s also a commonplace theory in climate change science that new viruses often emerge during periods of climate upheaval, caused by species migration into new areas.) Here’s a chilling quote from one of them: “Dr. Fouchier said he was surprised by how easy it was to change the virus into the very form that the world has been dreading. Now, scientists around the world will have to grapple with what to do with Dr. Fouchier’s creation.”—New York Times article, see url below.
Fouchier is a virologist who was part of the research team. This is one of the few things I’ve read that makes the fears seem well-grounded: a scientist creating exactly what we fear the most, and saying “he was surprised by how easy it was.” Here are two urls detailing the recent news:
Details of new lab-created bird flu strain may be too dangerous to publish
And while we’re on the subject, here’s the book jacket of my new novel, The Bird Saviors, which will be released on June 21st.