H5N1 – the Mr Neutron of diseases? cf Monty Python

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    Martin W

      from a Monty Python sketch, about Mr Neutron – the most dangerous man in the world.
      Echoes of this today, with H5N1 as supposedly the most dangerous disease (for man) on the planet; though terrible for poultry, and poultry farmers.

      Voice Over: But soon this quiet pattern of life was to change irrevocably. The commonplace routine of a typical Monday morning would never be the same again, for into this quiet little community came … Mr. Neutron!

      A train stops at the station. The train doors open and out steps Mr. Neutron. He looks like an American footballer, with enormous shoulders, tapering to a thin waist. He has very regular features and piercing eyes and is most impressive. He stands at the door of the train for a moment. The words ‘Mr. Neutron’ are written in bold diagonally across his chest. He carries a Sainsbury’s shopping bag.

      Voice Over: Mr. Neutron! The most dangerous and terrifying man in the world! The man with the strength of an army! The wisdom of all the scholars in history! The man who had the power to destroy the world. (animation of planets in space) Mr. Neutron. No one knows what strange and distant planet he came from, or where he was going to!… Wherever he went, terror and destruction were sure to follow.

      Cut to Neutron’s garden. He has three little picnic chairs out and is having tea with Mr. and Mrs. Entrail, a middle-aged couple. The lady, a little overdressed dominates. Mr. Entrail sits there rather sourly.

      Voice Over: Mr. Neutron! The man whose incredible power has made him the most feared man of all time… waits for his moment to destroy this little world utterly!

      Mrs. Entrail: Then there’s Stanley … he’s our eldest … he’s a biochemist in Sutton. He’s married to Shirley…

      Mr. Neutron: (in a strange disembodied voice, grammatically correct but poor in intonation) Shirley who used to be the hairdresser?

      Commander: What is it?

      Carpenter: Mr. Neutron is missing, sir!

      Commander: Mr. Neutron! Oh my God! OK – Surround the entire city! Send in four waves of armed paratroopers with full ground-to-air missile support! Alert all air bases! Destroy all roads! We’ll bomb the town flat if we have to!

      Carpenter: Sir! Sir! He’s not in Washington, sir.

      Commander: OK! Hold everything! Hold everything! Hold it! Lay off! Lay off… Where is he?

      Carpenter: We don’t know, sir … all we know is he checked out of his hotel and took a bus to the airport.

      Commander: All right! I want a full-scale Red Alert throughout the world! Surround everyone with everything we’ve got! Mobilize every fighting unit and every weapon we can lay our hands on! I want… I want three full-scale global nuclear alerts with every army, navy and air force unit on eternal standby!

      Carpenter: Right, sir!

      Commander: And introduce conscription!

      Carpenter: Yes, sir!

      Commander: Right!

      He slams the intercom button down and sits there. Silence again. His eyes look from side to side then slowly he goes back to smelling himself.

      Voice Over: So the world was in the grip of FEAR! A huge and terrifying crisis generated by one man! (zoom into Neutron in his front garden, weeding; behind him the group of GPO people are sitting opening another box fifty yards further down from the first one; a line of six recently opened boxes stretches up the road)… easily the most dangerous man the world has ever seen, honestly. Though still biding his time, he could strike at any moment. Could he be stopped in time?


      Voice Over: While precious time was being lost in Canada, the seconds were ticking away for the free world…

      Jarring chord. Cut to Neutron’s house. He is hanging flowery print wallpaper in his sitting room. Helping him is the quite enormously vast Frank Smailes who stands rather helplessly looking up at Neutron who is on a plank between two ladders.

      Voice Over: Already Neutron – who, you will remember, is infinitely the most dangerous man in the world, he really is – was gathering allies together.

      Mr. Neutron: Try having an omelet for your evening meal… perhaps with yogurt and grapefruit.


      Commander: OK. We’ll bomb Neutron out. Get me Moscow! Peking! and Shanklin, Isle of Wight!

      Cut to stock film of B52s on a bombing raid.

      Voice Over: And so the Great Powers and the people of Shanklin, Isle of Wight, drew their net in ever-tightening circles around the most dangerous threat to peace the world has ever faced. They bombed Cairo, Bangkok, Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Harrow, Hammersmith, Stepney, Wandsworth and Enfield… But always it was the wrong place.

      Cut to an area of smoking rubble. A van with the words ‘US Air Force’ on the side trundles through the rubble. It has a loudspeaker on the top of it.

      Loudspeaker: Sorry Enfield!… We apologize for any inconvenience caused by our bombing… sorry…

      Voice Over: But what of Mr. Neutron, the most fearfully dangerous man in the world! The man who could destroy entire galaxies with his wrist, the man who could tear fruit machines apart with his eyeballs… He had not been idle!

      Meantime we have mixed through to Neutron’s suburban sitting room. He is standing in the doorway gazing at something off camera. He holds an envelope which he has just opened and a letter.

      Voice Over: In fact he had fallen in love… with the lady who ‘does’ for Mrs. Entrail…

      Mr. Neutron

      Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/04/05 09:31

      Martin W

        With certain officials still trying to persuade us that H5N1 is a great threat to humanity, even as numbers of human deaths remain low, the Mr Neutron analogy still looks valid.
        Also, of course, brings back memories of dire warnings re Y2K bug:

        “The only difference between now and six months ago is not that the problem doesn’t exist, it is perhaps headline writers have got used to it,” he [David Nabarro, WHO avian flu coordinator] told reporters when asked if bird flu had turned into the Y2K of the viral world.

        Fears of mass computer breakdowns due to glitches associated with Y2K, the turn of the millennium in 2000, proved unfounded.

        Bird flu pandemic could cost $2 trillion – World Bank


        Hi Martin,

        in relation to the “wild bird thesis” Monthy Pythons sketch does not match perfectly. In context of the H5N1 outbreaks (especially here in Germany..) it would be better to speak about “Most dangerous ninja house sparrows” (or something like this, maybe “kamikaze-ducks” would be another good choice..) instead of “Most dangerous man of the world”. ;)

        If we take a look at the last outbreaks in Germany (the fist one on Ruegen is without any plausible explanation), there must be something like invisible sparrows – which breaks in the enclosures of i.e. (related to the “Rotterdam Zoo” / Netherland..) northern hawk owls (Surnia ulula), by the way day active, bre carnivores – sets the virus free and disappears without a trace. Even the outbreaks in Dresden were limited to the black swans, no other cases in the area around ’em , no clustering of outbreaks which would to expect if wild birds were vectors of H5N1.

        A few words abot the $2 trillion USD which would an pandemic costs: The pandemic is – at this time – an highly hypothetical thing. If the World Bank wishes to calculate the costs of hypothesises, they had to calculate the costs for the meteorite hit of 1950da (1.1 Km diameter, appears in march 2880 with the proof of 0.33 percent) too. No virologist neither knows in which form (high / low pathogenic) nor when the pandemic mutation of the virus will happen.

        The last achievements of our brave new world (Huxley) are “War on terrorism” and “War on H5N1”. Maybe it would an good idea (for ecological reasons) to unite them within one “War on [H5N1] terror” campaign. In february 2006 when the H5N1 media hype begun here in Germany i published these website:


        An other project of mine was the “Petition against preventative slaughtering (“culling”) of animals” which were signed by more than 3,700 people.


        And my new website – particularly related to H5N1 too – is now online too:


        These links just to give a little information about myself and my own position to the H5N1 media hype. Of course there is an risc of pandemic mutation. But all steps of prevention have to concider carefully. The killing of 200 million healthy birds in example may not be, in any instance, an acceptable option.


        Werner Hupperich

        PS: Sorry about some spelling mistakes, but my english is possibly not in best condition.. :)

        Martin W

          Hi Werner:

          Thanks for the message; good to know you’re spreading word about bird fly being over-hyped, and much silliness.

          I’ve seen notions that Ruegen outbreak might be linked to research institute there.
          Vogelgrippe auf Rügen: Ist das Virus aus dem Labor spaziert?

          Risk of pandemic mutation looks tiny, if mean to a dangerous virus (another thread here, on evolutionary biology, has much info on this; seems to me natural selection keeps on working so far).

          Best regards,


          Hi Martin,

          i heard about the thesis that the FLI (Friedrich Loeffler Institute) plays possibly an role on the Ruegen outbreak. However, there are no proves and the FLI was quite a little humorless in case of spreading this thesis.. :whistle:

          From my point of view the US got George Bush II to bring ‘freedom and democracy’ over the world (officially, unofficially it is nothing but an imperialistic/economic programme). Here in Germany we got Horst Seehofer – Agriculture Minister – and Thomas Mettenleiter – leader of the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute – to save the world of the ‘inevitable’ H5N1 pandemic (officially, unofficially it is, by the way, a good cause to save the profit of the german poultry industry..). In other words: H5N1 as an economic location factor.

          And the birds are victims of these economic policy – just a ‘collateral damage’. This explains particulary the misinformation and the H5N1 related tabloid reportings. There are just lobbyists at work.

          I am angry and gobsmacked in fact if i see the paradigm shift at the readership caused on these misinformations. Birds, until the H5N1 media hype widely perceived as ‘feathered friends‘ now mutateted in something like ‘feathered foes‘.

          Do you remember the movie ‘Atomic Café’ and ‘Bert the turtle’? In 1950, an animated turtle named Bert taught American children to ‘duck and cover’ in case of atomic attack. Both, Horst Seehofer and Thomas Mettenleiter, seems to be modern variants of Bert. They teach the german electorate to ‘duck and cover’ in case of H5N1 attack. In February it seemed to me if Hermann Goering makes an remake of Alfred Hitchcocks “The Birds”. In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern were the ‘conservation of the species’ related laws cancelled, hunters with night vision googles were ready to shoot and kill every wild bird. Residents of declared H5N1 restricted areas got the order to keep silence about those governmental taken steps. That’s what happened in Germany, february 2006. Not i.e. in north Vietnam or an other dictatorial country.

          At last my own thoughts about H5N1:

          Hypothesis: H5N1 is endemic in wide parts of the wild bird population and spreads rapidly over the rest. If this it is so, the actual governmental taken steps are foolish. To kill every bird in 3 Km diameter of every H5N1 suspected case is no acceptable problem solution. The only way would be vaccination of poultry and domestic flocks.

          Related to this hypothesis it is irrelevant if H5N1 – i agree with this thesis – was released by the poultry industry or not. I think that the H5N1 problem (like most of the other problems) is entirely man-made. Furthermore i believe that it is foolish to think that i.e. the application of antibiotic, mutagenic substances in the poultry industry stay without any adverse consequences. This may explain why the hpai strain of H5N1 is deadly within short times in case of infect poultry flocks and less deadly in wild birds.

          Best regards,

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