A BUMP ON THE ROAD TO DISEASE CONTROL

© Andy Turnbull, 2006



A government plan to check the spread of West Nile disease has been challenged by animal-rights activists, who describe it as "cruel and unusual."

West Nile is a sometimes- fatal disease that can be spread among birds and humans by mosquitoes. It first appeared in North America about ten years ago, and is now found in about half of the United States and in eight Canadian provinces.

Most efforts to develop a vaccine against West Nile have failed but Prof Percival Progglewock of the University of Gnostophobia has one that works. Unfortunately it works only on mosquitoes -- not on birds or humans -- but, as Prof Progglewock says, if mosquitoes can't catch West Nile themselves they can't pass it on.

With a contract from the Department of Health Prof Progglewock has begun a program to catch mosquitoes and inoculate them against the disease. In preparation for the campaign he ordered one million mosquito traps and 36 billion half-micron diameter hypodermic needles.

But the animal rights group "Friends of our Flying Friends" is protesting the use of leg-hold traps, which cause pain and sometimes injury to mosquitoes. If mosquitoes are to be trapped, the group says, it must be with traps that do not harm them.

The group also protests the plan to use hypodermic needles to vaccinate the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes have very delicate exoskeletons, the group says, and they could be damaged by injections. The group demands that the innoculation project be delayed until an oral vaccine can be developed.

To date, 25,103 lawyers have begun class action suits on behalf of the "Friends of our Flying Friends" and the mosquitoes. Most of the suits claim one trillion dollars in damages for the "Friends of our Flying Friends" and another trillion for the mosquitoes, but some claim one million dollars for each mosquito that chooses to participate in the suit. Because mosquitoes are unable to sign for their participation on the suits, the lawyers demand that their word be accepted as proof that the mosquitoes have retained them. The courts have rejected this suggestion but agree that, as proxies for the mosquitoes, members of "Friends of our Flying Friends" can sign for them.

Because of the lawsuits the project will be delayed indefinitely, while the government builds new courthouses and appoints new judges to try the class action suits.

In normal times construction of the new courthouses would take less than a year, but at present the construction industry is overloaded with demands for construction of new hospitals, in preparation for the expected plague of West Nile disease.

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