Epidemic

Logan Shannon / NHPR

Human beings spend a lot of time satisfying primal urges, but relatively little talking about or studying them. On today’s show, what we can learn by studying hedonism.

Also, hell can mean a bad day, other people, or a threat to sinners, but it wasn’t always so. We'll talk about how hell has evolved, from a place of flaming torture, to tangible horrors here in the real world.

And, at the height of the Ebola epidemic last fall, the hardest hit areas in West Africa not only struggled with containing the virus, but respectfully burying the dead. We’ll take a look at how funeral rites were handled during history’s worst epidemics.

Listen to the full show or click read more for individual segments.

Russell Darling via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/7uLMhV

Human beings spend a lot of time satisfying primal urges, but relatively little talking about or studying them. On today’s show, what we can learn by studying hedonism.

Then, at the height of the Ebola epidemic last fall, the hardest hit areas in West Africa not only struggled with containing the virus, but respectfully burying the dead. We’ll take a look at how funeral rites were handled during history’s worst epidemics.

Listen to the full show or click read more for individual segments.

Scientists who created mutant forms of bird flu want to see their research published, and an influential advisory committee recently gave them the green light after a debate that lasted for months.

But one of the manuscripts is now being blocked from publication because of Dutch legal controls on the export of technology that could potentially be used for weapons.

It's just the latest example of how complicated international export control laws have affected the debate over what to do about two studies on bird flu.

A hundred thousand people in Haiti are ready and waiting to get vaccinated against cholera.

The vaccine is sitting in coolers. Vaccination teams are all trained. Willing recipients are registered and entered into databases.

The impending mass vaccination project aims to show that vaccinating against cholera is feasible in Haiti. It has never been done in the midst of an ongoing cholera epidemic. So far, more than 530,000 Haitians have fallen ill with cholera, and more than 7,000 have died.

In June of 2009, a committee met at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to do a routine safety review of proposed research projects.

One of those projects involved genetically modifying flu viruses. And during the review, the committee brought up the idea of "dual-use" research. "Dual use" means legitimate scientific work that's intended to advance science or medicine, but that also might be misused with the intent to do harm.

Two controversial studies on bird flu will once again be reviewed by an expert committee that advises the government on what to do with biological research that could pose potential dangers.

The move is just the latest development in a fierce ongoing debate about genetically altered flu viruses created in laboratories at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Scientists working with bird flu recently called a 60-day halt on some controversial experiments, and the unusual move has been compared to a famous moratorium on genetic engineering in the 1970s.

But key scientists involved in that event disagree on whether history is repeating itself.

"I see an amazing similarity," says Nobel Prize winner Paul Berg, of Stanford University.