Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

A Plausible Nightmare

Posted by hyperpat on January 18, 2007

Put Jurassic Park and The Stand together and what you would have bears some frightening resemblance to a current research project that has recreated a version of the 1918 Spanish flu, which kill some 20 million people. The virus was recreated via genetic analysis , of a man who died of the flu in 1918 and was frozen in an Alaskan burial ground, similar to what was done in Jurassic Park to recreate the dinosaurs. Current tests have been conducted in a maximum bio-hazard facility, and the results indicate that this virus’s virulence is exactly as advertised, killing mice and monkeys in remarkably short periods. Part of its potency seems to derive from a property that makes the immune system go into overdrive, when the defense the body puts up gets carried away and kills other cells than just those infected with virus.

Now just imagine what would happen, as in The Stand, if this virus would somehow escape the facility. Back in 1918, human mobility was comparatively limited to today’s, when people can hop on a plane and be half-way around the world in hours. The virus would spread to almost everywhere in a remarkably short period, in spite of every effort to contain it. While our understanding of how these things work is much greater than then, effective treatments are still limited after infection occurs, and dealing with a true pandemic that might infect as much as half the world population is not something we have good preparation for.

This might not be a civilization killer, but it would certainly rock the boat pretty heavily.

Worse, having this virus around means there’s one more item on the terrorist’s shopping list. Now the research needs to be done if we want any hope of someday being able to eliminate or at least mitigate the effects of viruses like this. And even if this particular virus never gets out of the research lab, others out in the wild have the potential to mutate into something similar. So we do need to be prepared. But I do hope that when we’ve learned all we can from this particular strain, we have enough sense to completely destroy it.

One Response to “A Plausible Nightmare”

  1. Peter said

    How true! Your blog entry today has put me in mind to go and rent ‘The Andromeda Strain’ – if you remember that sci-fi flick. Quite good if memory serves.

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