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Outbreaks and Safety Concerns in Biodefense
Hypothetical scenario: During a basic lab procedure
you accidentally poke a lab needle through your glove and infect
yourself; however, you fail to notice it initially. Three days later
you begin to show cold symptoms, and for a quick remedy you take
some cold medicine and hope to feel better before your long flight
cross country to visit some relatives next week.
Soon the symptoms become more severe, and realize you are displaying
the same symptoms of infected lab mice exposed to the pathogen you
have been diligently working on. Immediately, you begin taking the
proper medications and ask your closest confidant and colleague
to administer the available vaccine for treatment. Fortunately,
you respond in time--the pathogen is under control, and you succeed
in stopping a possible outbreak to people you could have been in
contact with on the plane, your family, and countless other individuals
they would have contact with there after.
The question at hand between you and your trusted colleague is whether
or not to report the incident. If you do not report it, you could
avoid severe punishment for waiting so long to report the accident,
and not risk possible discharge of your position and discontinuation
of your research. On the other hand, if you inform the university
and other workers in the field of the incident, they may as a result
benefit from the warnings by firming up their safety measures and
practices, in order to prevent a similar situation in the future
that might actually lead to an epidemic.
Do you report the incident and risk the university's credibility
and trust with its hosting community, or do you keep the incident
to yourself since you have already managed to take care of the illness?
Do you believe the dangers for an outbreak are higher or lower if
other lab scientists have been in similar scenarios and tend to
self-treat the disease and not go public?