The Deadly Cough

Angalee Nadesalingam


Sometimes it’s easy to tell between Right and Wrong.

Children starving in Africa

Killing people.

Helping the old lady cross the street.

But, sometimes there’s this fuzzy gray area between black and white. Over the last couple of months, scientists have been making the headlines. So, what have these budding-Einsteins  been up to?

Well, they’ve been creating a super-flu, a killer virus.

Dr. Ron Fouchier from the Netherlands has lately become the object of a lot of critical international scrutiny. And, before I tell you more about him, I’d like to mention that the Netherlands is ranked as the 25th most peaceful country in the world.

This 45-year old virologist genetically engineers new organisms for a living. He has recently been making a new strain of the highly fatal H5N1 bird flu virus. Though only 336 people have so far naturally died of this disease, its potential is much larger. If it were to escape from Dr. Fouchier’s lab, it could kill more people than an exploding
nuclear reactor.

At almost the same time, virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin combined the avian and swine flu virus to create a virus that can be transmitted through the air.

These discoveries can be a major improvement in science, because they can demonstrate which genes cause severe mortality.  Right now, the medical and
scientific communities are awaiting answers to some gripping questions: How did
these scientists manipulate the viruses? What are their genetic codes? What
mutations cause the fatality?

Meanwhile, people like us read these questions and think, “Well, who gives a damn? What’s the big hullabaloo about?” But, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S.A.’s National Science Advisory Board of Biosecurity (NSABB), sure don’t feel that way. In fact, they’ve prevented these articles from being published in two of the most prestigious scientific journals, Nature and Science. But, why?

They’re scared. That’s the bottom line of it. They may use fancy, menacing words like ‘bioterrorism’, ‘public safety standards’, and ‘potential biological weapons’ to justify their censorship. However, what they truly believe is that militant groups will use these
experiments to create deadly viruses that they will release into America. The
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, spoke of “warning signals” and even
“evidence” that the al-Qaida was trying to recruit “brothers with degrees in
microbiology and chemistry”. She states that these terrorists only require
“inexpensive equipment and college-level chemistry and biology” to make these
deadly diseases.

However, it seems that these terrorists already have access to plenty of other ‘controversial’ experiments:


-In 2001, the genetic make-up to a
100-percent fatal mouse poxvirus was published

-In Nature, instructions on how to create
the plague virus were laid out

-The Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed
between 50-100 million people, has been fully re-created


Today we live in a world where a person on
one side of the planet can contact a person on the other within a matter of
seconds. Ideas can be just as contagious as viruses, as the recent uprisings in
the Middle East have proven. It seems too late to stop this tidal wave of
research; what’s to stop terrorists from acting on the existing research?


Well, really, the answer is Nothing.
Nothing, but morals. So, maybe it’s about time we spread good morals and
philosophies around the world. As the movie Inception taught us all, ideas only
grow in another’s mind when the person believes it is their own.  Even if the movie is fictional, it brings up
a powerful idea: We can’t force other people to share our morals. Few people
are talking about humanitarian prospects in this scientific argument, because it’s
too much of a long-term plan. But, as we agreed at the beginning of this
article, “killing people” is wrong. We have to make everyone realize this fact.
Otherwise there really is nothing
between life and death.