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Scientists restart bird flu research after self-imposed halt

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bird flu (chameleonseye/
bird flu (chameleonseye/

Research into mammalian strains of avian influenza, also commonly known as H5N1, ceased a year ago over fears that creating more transmittable forms of the virus could spark an outbreak or risk bioterrorist attacks. Today, though, scientists have announced that they are lifting their self-imposed ban, which was originally supposed to last for 60 days. In a letter published in Nature, a group of 40 researchers declare that "the benefits of this work outweigh the risk."

The scientists state the case for resuming their studies by citing the importance of the work, measures to minimize risk, and recommendations from the World Health Organization. MIT Technology Review reports that research in the EU, Canada, and China is set to resume, but the US and Japanese governments still need to give the final go-ahead. H5N1, while rarely infectious to humans, has killed around 360 people since 2003.