The British health authorities have been put on alert, because cases of the deadly hemorrhagic fever Lassa have been identified, after a decade since the last case was recorded in the country. These are three cases of people from the same family, who traveled to the United Kingdom, from West Africa, where the disease is endemic and there is a constant outbreak. Meanwhile, US government’s involvement in controversial experiments on the potential of pandemic viruses is emerging as a new US-funded study, which enhances the aggression and transmissibility of the bird flu virus, comes to light.
“Silent alert” in UK for Ebola-like virus cases
The telegraph.co.uk reports that so far the two cases have been confirmed and are being treated in a special safe infectious disease unit at the Royal Free Hospital, while the third is considered suspicious and is being treated at the Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust.
However, according to the UK Health Insurance Agency (UKHSA), there is no cause for concern, with Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser, saying:
“Lassa fever cases are rare in the UK and the virus does not spread easily between of the people. The overall risk is very low.”
It is noted that before these infections, eight cases of Lassa fever had been introduced in the United Kingdom since 1980, with the last two being recorded in 2009.
People with Lassa fever have flu-like symptoms such as fever, headaches, muscle aches, diarrhea and vomiting.
In the most severe cases the disease can cause bleeding from the vagina, mouth or nose and severe swelling of the face.
100,000 cases are reported annually in West Africa with an average of 5,000 deaths. But about 80% of cases are asymptomatic and experts do not know how widespread the disease is.
What is Lassa fever?
The World Health Organization has classified the disease as a potential pandemic and is on the list of priority viruses, such as Ebola and dengue fever.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease, similar to Ebola, and people become infected through exposure to food or other items contaminated with the urine or feces of infected rats. The virus can also be transmitted from person to person through body fluids.
Ways of dealing with
So far, there is no effective treatment or vaccine, but several vaccines are in progress. In fact, two have entered phase tests, the first in 2019, while the second has been conducting human trials since 2021.
According to Dr. Michael Head, senior researcher in global health at the University of Southampton, the virus “is not as contagious as many other pathogens. The disease’s ability to spread (R) is estimated between 1.0 and 1.6. By comparison, the coronavirus that started the pandemic had an R of about 3 and the R number for the most contagious Omicron mutation is probably about 12.”
Controversial NIH experiments to increase risk and transmissibility of avian influenza viruses
The US Government Medical Research Service has funded scientists to study bird flu that is not transmitted between humans. However, the NIH’s projects aim to enable avian influenza viruses to be transmitted between mammals and to assess the possibility of a pandemic as a potential threat to humans.
Gain-of-function (GOF) studies improve a pathogen’s ability to cause disease by increasing its infectivity and transmissibility. These dangerous experiments have not been completed, although COVID-19 is suspected to be the result of such NIH-funded GoF research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Instead of ending all GoF research since the pandemic began, the NIH and its sub-agency – the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) – have continued to provide financial support for the following GoF studies:
- Transmission of avian influenza viruses to mammals (NIAID support expires in August 2021)
- Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS) (NIAID support expired in March 2021).
- Imitation of the evolution to determine the mechanisms of airborne transmission of H7N9 viruses, (started on September 2, 2021 and is in progress).
According to the project description, “prolonged human-to-human transmission has not yet been reported. “Several attempts in the past to select H5 viruses (usually not transmitted between mammals) have been unsuccessful.”
This is why researchers “plan to pass on non-communicable viruses of different genetic backgrounds to ferrets (an established model of influenza virus transmission) to select for transmissible mutations.”
The project includes studies on pandemic animal flu viruses, but no further details have been released.
According to the description provided for Project 1R21AI144135-01:
“The Asian origin of the H7N9 (AIV) avian influenza virus has not been transmitted to humans. However, there is a good chance that these viruses will evolve to be transmitted through the airborne route and cause a pandemic… Viruses carrying H7N9 HA and NA will be created in the backbone of the A / PR8 vaccine. Mutations will be introduced into the HA and NA τμή gene segments. We will evaluate the replication kinetics of recombinant H7N9-A / PR8 viruses for their growth in primary human airway primary epithelial cells. “Primary human cells will include epithelial cells from the nose, trachea, bronchi and small airways.”
These latest experiments funded by the NIH are just a few of the many controversial laboratory studies that have been approved by the agency. One of them was the dangerous bat coronavirus investigation in China, which is under investigation in the US for a possible link to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite repeated denials from NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others before Congress, the NIH finally acknowledged last year that the US funded the GoF bat coronavirus research in Wuhan, where the pandemic started and spread around the world.
The $ 3.7 million grant was awarded to the US non-profit organization EcoHealth Alliance. In a letter to the US House of Representatives, the NIH stated that the EcoHealth Alliance had violated the NIH AI110964 Terms and Conditions and did not list all of its activities in China.
According to the NIH letter, a “limited experiment” was conducted to test whether “proteins from natural bat coronaviruses circulating in China were able to bind to the human ACE2 receptor in a mouse model”.
Following the publication of a report by the House Intelligence Committee stating that “significant incidental evidence” supports the case of the laboratory leak, spokesman Mike Gallagher urged members of Congress and the media to look more closely at the additional leaks. US taxpayers sending dollars to the EcoHealth Alliance.
According to the MP, “If you start doing basic research, it quickly becomes clear that it is much larger than Dr. Fauci and concerns the entire US government.”
The EcoHealth Alliance has received a total of $ 112.1 million in U.S. government funding since 2003, according to information obtained from the U.S. Federal Contract Register.
Its main sponsors are the NIH through NIAID and the Pentagon through the Defense Threat Reduction Service (DTRA). The objectives of the projects are the detection and evaluation of pandemic viruses mainly in Africa and Asia.