Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Nancy Bigley (Advisor), Shalini Forbis (Committee Member), Barbara Hull (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Research on highly pathogenic avian influenza A (HPAI) H5N1 has gained much attention in recent years due to its devastating impact within the bird population. While transmission to humans is rare, infections are fatal in more than half of the cases. One of the main concerns among the scientific community is the ability for this virus to mutate in a way much like seasonal influeanza that would allow it to be transmitted efficiently among the human population. Two researchers were able to separately create mutant isolates of H5N1 influenza A virus that could be transmitted via the respiratory route between ferrets. The submission of these articles led to multiple public health and biosecurity/biosafety concerns. The purpose of this paper is to explore the current debate regarding restrictions on H5N1 research. H5N1is a great risk to biosecurity/biosafety, and many believe it should be excluded from future research. However, with the viruses' high mutation rate and the possibility of genetic reassortment with other mammalian influenza viruses the risks to society are already high. Since the virus could become a pandemic within the human population, this paper will also provide an in depth exploration of current public health policy and pandemic preparedness operations underway.

Page Count


Department or Program

Microbiology and Immunology

Year Degree Awarded