Iowa Public Television


Experts Call for Global Bird Flu Database

posted on August 25, 2006

Top bird flu experts are calling for the creation of a new database to share bird flu data.

They say the system would promote research on the virus and help countries around the world avert a health catastrophe.

The letter calling for the database was signed by 70 scientists working with the disease, including six Nobel laureates. It said scientists participating in the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data would agree to publish results collaboratively.

However, some international health officials are skeptical.

Spokesman for the World Health Organization, Dick Thompson, said "We certainly support the spirit of this letter, but we are unclear what this will actually add to the monitoring of avian influenza."

But in recent months, the WHO has received heavy criticism for its bird flu database that is considered secretive; allowing access to only a select number of scientists.

With the scientific community being driven largely by a race to publish, countries and laboratories are often reluctant to share their bird flu data before announcing their research in reputable magazines or journals.

"This initiative is important as it's a further commitment on the part of scientists worldwide to share data, but it doesn't solve all the problems," said Dr. Angus Nicoll, director of Influenza Coordination at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

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