We don’t need to panic about a bird flu pandemic – yet

We don’t need to panic about a bird flu pandemic – yet

We don't need to panic about a bird flu pandemic - yet

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If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that vigilance is key. We need to watch closely how viruses in animals develop and be ready to make the leap to humans. We needn’t panic, though. Not yet anyway.


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We have been here before. Scientists were trying to figure out how bird flu could spread to humans in the 2000s, as Emily Singer wrote.

Close monitoring of ever-changing virus genomes has helped us navigate the covid-19 pandemic. It will also be vital for future public health threats, as Linda Nordling wrote last year.

It takes a long time to make a flu vaccine. But the next generation of mRNA vaccines could protect against the flu – as well as a bunch of other viruses – and could be prepared in a fraction of the time it takes to make existing vaccines, as I wrote on last month.

New mutations that allow viruses to jump from animals to humans can happen anywhere, anytime. But that won’t stop some people from insisting they were concocted by scientists in a lab. Shi Zhengli, who has long studied coronaviruses in bats at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, faced these accusations during the covid-19 pandemic. Jane Qiu covered her story last year.

Tech Review has been covering pandemics since 1956. Apparently, at the time, it was perfectly acceptable to write that “the people of this world have been plagued by a long series of awesome epidemics.”

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