‘We may have a disaster on our hands.’ confessed Dr Paul Nunn of the WHO, writing in The Lancet. ‘The world could be without a major epidemic to fret about next winter. That would be unthinkable, leaving most of us with no media interviews, lucrative consultancies or entertainment from drug companies. We simply can‘t let that happen and we must protect ourselves, and, er, the population as a whole from the dire consequences.’
The nub of the problem is that there is no outstanding candidate for next season’s health crisis. Whilst the influenza virus is always a trusty standby, officials feel that swine ‘flu getting its second wind or a resurgence of SARS would be difficult to sell to a public which has become increasingly sceptical after a decade of unfulfilled pandemic panics since Y2K. Dr. Nunn admitted that he was rather keen on a super bug scare this year, perhaps linked to MRSA, whilst others were keen on developing a theory that obesity was caused by a virus found only in burgers and other foods eaten by fat people.
In an attempt to calm growing anxiety, Dr Neil Shrivan from New York’s Yeshiva University assured reporters at a press conference that researchers were well under way on developing this year’s frenzy of fear but he refused to reveal anything beyond saying that the disease was going to be ‘very nasty indeed.’
A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical giant, said last night. ‘We are watching developments closely. Obviously we don’t want the WHO to go for swine flu again as every government has stockpiled enough of the vaccine to treat everyone ten times over.’ The spokesman paused and added in a low voice, ‘Of course there is always the ‘new strain’ option. We believe momentum is building behind the concept of the swine and bird flu viruses forming a coalition. Pigs really might fly…’