(MCT) — Ebola is not the virus that keeps Marc Lipsitch up at night.
Lipsitch, a Harvard epidemiologist who grew up in Atlanta, is on a mission to eradicate human-engineered strains of deadly pathogens such as the H5N1 “bird flu.” Those strains exist only in a handful of labs, where they have been genetically altered to make the virus more contagious.
H5N1, which first infected humans in 1997 in China, has killed about 60 percent of the almost 700 people who have been diagnosed with it. Nearly all of them got sick through contact with infected birds; in nature, H5N1 does not pass easily from person to person.
If it acquires that ability in the wild before scientists have developed effective vaccines and treatments, many millions of people are likely to die.