Thursday, 4 February 2016

Failing to share influenza data is not something new

I had complained about the Taiwanese H5N8 data being a pain to get hold of and I also tangentially mentioned how slow the US was in making its H5N8 sequences available as they wanted to publish first. I have just blogged about GISAID which I find does not help the problem and in some ways is there to put another hurdle into getting the data, but this news story from 2006 is shocking.

The WHO was/is keeping flu data secret with access to the data being restricted to 15 labs. I can see why people in the viral community sometimes throw their hands in the air and go independent like Nathan Wolfe. If you have to fight WHO to get the data then you need to find another source of data. It should be made clear as Wolfe does in his books that eventually we will face a viral catastrophe.

What virus and when is not clear but hoarding data and blocking access does not threaten good science it threatens lives. The Taiwan H5N8 response was affected by this lack of open sharing and it had a large economic cost. It is vital that the WHO is completely open with its data because a future viral pandemic is a possible existential threat.

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