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Why striking again might feel like Christmas come early, and how terrorists could use a bunch of ferrets to cook up a flu pandemic

A round-up of the health news headlines on Friday 22 June

Following yesterday's day of action, the Daily Telegraph has raised the possibility that GPs could shut their surgeries for a 'Christmas Day style strike' if doctors' concerns about pensions are not addressed.

The Daily Telegraph quotes Dr Mark Porter, (described as the `favourite' to take over chairmanship of the BMA next week), as saying that one option is to run the NHS like `a bank holiday, weekend or Christmas Day', with GP surgeries shut and patients directed to out-of-hours services or hospitals run by a skeleton staff.  

The Daily Mail reported that '90% of doctors had snubbed the day of action – deciding their patients must come first' and said that `thousands of GPs and hospital medics who had initially voted for industrial action appeared to back down on the day'.  The Mail also reported that none of the five doctors at the former practice of BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum had gone on strike.

On to other news, and the Guardian has described how scientists involved in a 'controversial research project' created a pandemic strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus in a lab. The research, published in Science, shows that the wild virus requires mutation at only five locations in its genome to become a strain that could cause a pandemic in humans. The scientists genetically altered the virus at three locations and used it to infect ferrets (the standard model used to mimic flu in humans). As the virus spread between the animals by physical contact, it picked up additional mutations until with only five mutations to differentiate it from the wild virus, it became airborne and able to spread via the kind of tiny droplets produced in a cough or sneeze.

According to the Guardian, publication of the report was delayed by eight months while the US government argued that the information should be censored to avoid being misused by terrorists.

The possibilities of surgery in the womb continue to expand, with surgeons reporting the successful removal of a tumour from a foetus's mouth in the first operation of its kind, reports BBC News online. Surgeons in Florida, USA, removed an oral teratoma in utero using a laser five months before the baby girl was born.

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