If recent health scares have taught us anything, it is that public and media alike are obsessed with the possibility of deadly plague. With a new and highly infectious strain of influenza being reported over the last few weeks, we spoke to Martin Ganglion from the World Health Organisation and asked him how concerned we ought to be.
UBO: So, this new strain H4N6 - what do we know about it?
Ganglion: Very little, at the moment. Cases are still quite rare and we are in the process of collecting data in order to establish a pattern. But, of course, this is not really the main problem. Most of our staff have been concentrating on coming up with a name for the virus.
UBO: A name?
Ganglion: Well yes. I mean, we can't very well keep calling it H4N6, can we? Very dull. So for the past couple of months our doctors and specialists and all those sorts of people have been putting their heads together in order to come up with a catchy moniker.
UBO: Isn't that getting your priorities rather confused? Shouldn't you be figuring out how the disease is transmitted, how it can be treated, how people can avoid infection?
Ganglion: Well, now you're talking about medical stuff.
UBO: Well... yes.
Ganglion: Well, yes. And medical stuff is very important, of course. We recognise that. I mean, we're the World Health Organisation - we of all people recognise the importance of medical stuff. If it wasn't for medical stuff, we'd all be out of a job. But first things first, before we even start to look at that kind of thing we have to get the marketing sorted out.
UBO: But in the meantime people could be dying of H4N6!
Ganglion: Exactly! And nobody wants that.
UBO: Well quite.
Ganglion: Yes, you want to die of something that sounds exotic and impressive and just a bit more sexy than boring old H4N6. That's why it's imperative that we get a wriggle on and think of a decent name before the press do.
UBO: The press?
Ganglion: Exactly, I'm glad you agree. We don't want another 'bird flu' situation. We took our eye off the ball there and before you knew it the media had come up with their own name and we were given the elbow.
UBO: And that was a problem, was it?
Ganglion: Certainly it was. What kind of a name is 'bird flu'? I'll tell you - it's a rubbish kind of name, that's what. Look at all the really successful outbreaks: the Black Death, Bubonic Plague, Bieber Fever - all genuinely terrifying. That's what we need - something that will really put the wind up people. And I'm glad to say that we've done just that.
UBO: You've come up with a name.
Ganglion: Deathstriker! Good, isn't it?
UBO: It's... So, this Deathstriker virus is fatal?
Ganglion: The name certainly seems to suggest that it is.
UBO: Yes. But is it?
Ganglion: Well, again, that's medical stuff. I'm sure the doctor chaps will get to the bottom of all that.
UBO: So work on determining the symptoms can now begin?
Ganglion: Oh certainly.
UBO: Investigators can start mapping the outbreak immediately?
Ganglion: Oh, yes. Almost immediately.
UBO: And laboratories are poised to identify the virus and formulate a vaccine?
Ganglion: Very nearly any day now, probably.
Ganglion: Probably, yes, very probably. As soon as we have decided on the logo.
UBO: Obviously. Mr Ganglion, thank you very much for talking to us.
Ganglion: And then there's the merchandising, the magazine rights, the film adaptation, the worldwide stadium tour, the...
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