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Bird flu poses threat to international security, Illinois scholar says

In the past, when government leaders, policymakers and scholars have turned their attention to peace and security issues, the talk invariably has focused on war, arms control or anti-terrorism strategies. But Julian Palmore believes it's time to expand the scope of the conversation.

"One thing that is not talked about enough is infectious diseases," said Palmore, a mathematics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the director of the university's Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security. "Of course, the spread of AIDS has been and continues to be a major concern worldwide," he said, "but an even greater threat, with regard to international security, may well be avian influenza," or bird flu, as it's commonly called.

And while biologists, epidemiologists and other scientists are engaged in efforts to better understand how the disease is contracted and spread in animals and in humans, Palmore said world leaders and policymakers need to seriously consider the potential international security implications that would result from an avian influenza pandemic.

"Natural disasters, especially pandemics, can and do affect international security in many ways," the U. of I. professor wrote in an article titled "Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Clear and Present Danger to International Security," scheduled for publication in an upcoming issue of the journal Defense & Security Analysis.

"They can have disastrous effects on countries' economies, infrastructures, populations, public health and stability. As a consequence of natural disasters, governments may fail and populations may be decimated.

"Thus," Palmore writes, "planning for international security needs must take into account the effects of natural disasters.

"Since avian influenza is of utmost concern in Asia and in many other parts of the world, it is imperative that states' governments and nongovernmental organizations pa
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Contact: Melissa Mitchell, News Editor
melissa@uiuc.edu
217-333-5491
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
24-Jan-2006


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