Nature Channels Michael Crichton or Stephen King

Nature magazine, nominally a “science” publication, runs a “news feature” that is a fictional blog account of an avian flu pandemic.

Unfortunately, instead of steamy sex with disciples of the devil or nuclear weapons going off in Vegas or bacteria brought down to earth by a secret government project, we get the payoff of the United States federal government trouncing individual liberties and transnational UN organizations saving the day. A predictable plot.

The message, of course, is that the government is not spending enough money on experts who issue warnings about flu pandemics.

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article that cuts to the chase:

[Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md.] said that federal spending on influenza preparedness has increased to $419 million from $40 million over the past five years but concedes he is not satisfied with the United States’ current level of readiness.

Read: he’s not satisfied with the current level of federal funding. Furthermore:

For example, even though an experimental H5N1 vaccine is being tested, the system for manufacturing it — the same system that produces millions of ordinary flu shots — is failure-prone. “Capacity needs to be built up,” Fauci said.

Swiss pharmaceuticals maker Roche Inc. produces the entire world supply of the drug at a single European plant. Federal authorities have been negotiating with Roche to build a Tamiflu factory in the United States.

Capacity is down, but I’m sure that’s unrelated to the chronic litigation sucking life and lucre out of vaccine makers and pharmaceutical companies and the increasing regulation.

In addition to problems with capacity, the United States has too small–according to experts– stockpile of the highly-perishable vaccines, but I’m sure that’s unrelated to states banning vaccines with the preservative thimerosal (the study of which also requires federal funding, according to experts).

Of course, pay no attention to the Illinois oversupply that occurred last year, when experts and the shrieking media ginned up predictions of a dire flu season. So the governor “did something” and contracted for vaccine–a supply that went unused and undoubtedly has been discarded by now. I’m sure that the lesson is not that “when government acts according to the experts, it wastes money.”

Ultimately, I think experts agree, we have a choice: federal funding for research funneled to transnational organizations and international conferences, or we’re going to die.

(Link to Nature seen on A Small Victory.)