Category Archives: world flu pandemic

The Apocalypse Problem

There’s nothing wrong with escapist fantasy. The problem comes when we confuse reality with fiction. Some people are doing that right now. In an actual emergency, that’s dangerous.

One of my favorite reviews of This Plague of Days mentioned a scene that takes place at a mall. A large group of young people have gathered together to find shelter. What pleased the reader was that it wasn’t about kids coming together to form a Lord of the Flies situation. They’re doing their best to look out for each other. No warlords need apply. Sadly, some folks seem to be taking the wrong lessons from apocalyptic fiction.

The common fantasy goes a little something like this: My name is Dirk Badass and I’m a prepper/former Special Forces hero/king with what might as well be a castle, an infinite supply of ammo, and all the guns. All of ’em. I have no idea how to grow cabbages but I’m here for the shootin’ without regrets or consequences. Society has fallen and I am the law. Zombies are fair game. Screw all y’all! Also, anyone else trying to survive isn’t an innocent and desperate scavenger like me. They’re all looters and they’re easy targets, too. No, I can’t even spell PTSD. Why do you ask?

As I mention somewhere in This Plague of Days, reality doesn’t reflect that narrative. We came down from the trees and managed to survive many thousands of years camping without ergonomic pillows and CPAP machines because we worked together. We formed tribes that eventually became communities which evolved to countries. Like it or not, we all rely on each other. Something as simple as a #2 pencil requires resources from two or three countries.

Sure, there are a few hermits out there, but those are outliers (and tend to be crazy.) The longest surviving hermit in modern history lasted in the woods almost 30 years. He survived because he broke into other people’s cottages for supplies and shelter. Nobody’s alone, especially in a pandemic that touches everyone and everything.

On Walden Pond was a nice experiment. Henry David Thoreau had a small garden and supposedly lived off the land because he felt the most free in nature. That’s not the entire story. He managed to live there for a couple of years, but he also extolled the virtue of visiting neighbors. He found it especially nice to be social just about the time his poor neighbors were putting dinner on the table. Fans of Thoreau play down that he was a mooch. Not exactly the independent type, after Walden he became a house sitter for Emerson.

We didn’t make it as a species because we are rugged individualists. That’s almost entirely a myth. Cowboys worked farms and ranches. The Inuit worked together to survive. Even lower primates have mutually beneficial social structures. Fight alone, you die. Fight together, we have a chance. Since we’re on a war footing with COVID-19, working together is the attitude we have to take. Rambo would die quickly. Band of Brothers is a realistic military template because that’s how you really fight a war: together.

Right about now, some guy with a stack of food barrels he bought from a televangelist or Alex Jones is getting antsy.

Let’s let that guy talk

“I know how to grow my own food! I don’t need anybody!”

If you know how to grow enough food to support your family, that’s a good thing. Many preppers and doomers do miss that step. How big is your harvest? Will it come in time? Do you know how to deal with mites that rot the roots of vegetables? Do you know not to plant your squash next to your zucchini? Are you good at canning, too? Are you on the grid? Have you got a generator? How long can you keep that going if the power goes out?

“I’ll…uh… I’ll steal fuel for the generator and freeze everything!”

Not sure how long that’ll be sustainable, but try not to get shot when you go out for fuel for that generator.

“I’m not afraid! I’ve got guns!”

Other people have guns, too. But, okay, let’s assume you’re a crack shot and a little sociopathic so you don’t mind shooting your neighbors if they object to you siphoning gas. Do you sleep?

“Huh?”

If you take my means of transportation and you’re terrorizing my family with weapons, I’ll cooperate. Then I’ll come back at 3 a.m. to poison your well, steal your crops and burn your house down with you in it. Remember the cardinal rule of every zombie apocalypse: Save a bullet for yourself.

“We’ll establish a perimeter! We’ll have guards.”

Sounds like a big operation. You’re going to need more crops and more scavengers to meet everyone’s needs.

“Then we’ll do that.”

So you’ll have a community.

“A small community, like the Amish. They don’t have to pay taxes. I like that. They seem to do fine.”

Yeah, living Amish could be…interesting, I guess? Here’s something I know having worked with a Mennonite community much like the Amish: When their kids get tumors, they step out of the 18th Century and head for the hospital. How are you set for medicines, hypothetical prepper guy?

“I took first aid in Boy Scouts. We’ll be fine.”

“Excellent! Everyone should have first aid training. How are you set for root canals? Or prostate cancer?”

“Uh…I guess we’ll have to take medical personnel into our community.”

By force?

“If necessary. It’s a survival situation! Anything goes! We do what it takes!”

For a guy so concerned with freedom…never mind. Cool, cool, cool. Who’s going to do the blood tests? Got a lab in the back forty? Where you going to get the MRI machine and the dude who fixes the MRI machine? You’re going to need medical supplies at some point. Everybody does.”

“We’ll get everything we need to survive.”

Uh-huh. So you’ll need to establish some kind of set up so somebody can take care of your kids and your grandchildren and teach others how to set a bone and pull teeth without the anaesthesia that mostly comes from China.

“Like I said, whatever it takes, smartass. We’ll gather everyone with the skill sets we need.”

I see. Like the civilization we have now?

Harumph. I’m starting to think you’re weak and not in the survival mindset. Stop it. Alarmists are tools of the establishment.”

I wonder what establishment you mean, but I want to be fair. This is not the apocalypse you were prepping for. You talked a lot of shit about fighting back against the federal government that was supposed to take your guns away. Obama didn’t and now you’re…what? Pissed at the new government that’s not trying to take your guns away? Conflict is your thing, man, but who’s making you a victim?

“It’s about freedom! For instance, me and mine protested forced house arrest so we could go out.”

That’s not what house arrest is, but even if it were, you got so angry because you wanted to go get haircuts. Gotta be honest, that doesn’t sound very badass.

“We don’t like being stuck inside. That’s no way to live.”

Dying on a ventilator is no way to live. You do want to protect you and yours, right? That’s what the guns are for, I guess.

“You betcha!”

You can’t shoot a virus so I guess the guns are to intimidate…who? Cops working crowd control and issuing citations? I thought you were pro-police.

“We carry guns to defend ourselves, from whoever.”

Protection. That’s what all that canned soup in your basement is for, too, right? In case the food supply chain breaks down, I think having food set aside as backup is a good idea. I’m starting a garden. That said, you know governments are asking you to isolate for your protection.

“I’m uncomfortable that you’re agreeing with me on anything so I’ll move the goalposts back and say this virus is a hoax and I need to work to eat.”

Second thing, first. I understand not having money set aside for emergencies. I’m not rich, like, at all. Huge companies claim to have nothing set aside for a rainy day, so why should people like you and me? I sympathize with that problem. How about we take 90% of the money that goes to the Pentagon and save every citizen of the USA, starting with you.

“Communism!”

Enlightened Socialism. The threat is disease and economic collapse, not terrorists. More terrorists are getting killed by COVID-19 right now, not drones.

“I don’t believe in handouts.”

“It’s almost May 1st. How are you going to make rent? That $1,200 bucks that’s coming should help, right?”

“My sister got her check but it’s already gone for essentials. I haven’t got my check yet. I didn’t file taxes in time so I might never get it.”

I am sorry to hear that. I’ve got a lot of friends in the same situation. That $1,200 sure won’t last ten weeks like they said, huh? How about another emergency stimulus check to stop you from becoming homeless? I don’t want you to starve. For everyone’s sake, testing and treatment should be provided free of charge to the individual.

“A check would be helpful but the government doesn’t move that fast and probably won’t do it. Besides, how are they gonna pay for it? Freedom ain’t free.”

By reallocating tax dollars. Social programs aren’t free and no one ever said they were. It’s about getting your money’s worth from the taxes you pay. I have to say, you’re a very good person.

(Eyes me suspiciously) “Yeah? How’s that, libtard?”

You have to be a very good person to be so concerned about how the government is going to pay for your bailout.

Whut?

I mean, it’s so selfless. You’re willing to go homeless and starve rather than let anyone help you. Is that pride? I want you to know, I don’t look down on anyone who needs help. Mega-corporations don’t get embarrassed for all the tax breaks and assistance they get, so we shouldn’t feel bad. Everybody needs help now and then.

“Don’t talk down to me! Obama — “

Obama’s not in charge. Hasn’t been for years.

“China — “

Covered up how bad things were, but they weren’t the only government to downplay the danger of a worldwide pandemic, were they? (Smiles.)

“The media — “

Also not in charge of the pandemic response.

(Prepper Guy mumbles inaudibly and curses.)

I guess we could wait for the billionaires to save us. They’ve got plenty of spare money to fund research, expand research, supply PPE, ramp up testing —

Prepper Guy laughs. “Never gonna happen. No such thing as spare money to those people.”

You’re right, Prepper Guy. Those same people want you to rush back out to feed the economy, especially the funeral home industry, I guess. Sounds like we actually need to pool our money and use government in an organized way to get things done. It’s possible. Other governments have been successful in curbing COVID-19 death rates.

“Yeah? Name one.”

New Zealand.

“Shit. I heard about that. Name two more.”

Germany and Cuba.

“IT’S ALL A HOAX!”

Oh, yeah, We were going to get back to that, weren’t we? Dude, if you honestly think the world pandemic is a hoax, I am sorry. Are you also a Flat Earther? Did you not see the chaos in Italy? If it’s a grand conspiracy, what’s the goal? I don’t understand why all these doctors and nurses would cooperate with that and keep the plot a secret. Surely, these can’t all be crisis actors.

“The plan is to make my president look bad!”

The same president who hasn’t expressed a word of condolence to the victims and their families? The guy who ignored repeated warnings from the intelligence community and tried to wish it away? The leader who never says sorry and blames everyone but himself?

“Saying that stuff would imply guilt!”

Gee, I wonder why that would be?

(Pauses. Eye widen.) “Shut up.”

The same guy who, in the middle of a horrific crisis, mused about injecting disinfectants? And then claimed it was sarcasm? Even if that were true, doesn’t riffing about this to bait the media on a national stage make it worse that he did that? Do you really think now, when you and your family is in danger is a time to joke around, just to see what would happen? I don’t think now, with 56,000 dead Americans and more to come, is the best time to yuk it up.

“Okay, people are dying but more people die of other things!”

Shouldn’t we try to prevent death, though? Isn’t that what governments do? To work for the national defense to protect their citizens? I thought you were a pro-life kind of guy. Suppose you choose which of your loved ones will perish. You don’t want to be that guy. You’re better than that.

“If we all stay inside, we’ll all starve to death.”

False choice. That’s what the bailouts are for. When a ship is sinking, you bail it out. I know this isn’t easy and there aren’t a lot of choices. When the options suck, you choose what’s least damaging. If you get a flat tire, you don’t shoot the other three.

“But, stupid, if everybody keeps in isolation, the economy will go in the shitter.”

You could give everyone the all-clear today, but not many people will go out tomorrow. Telling people it’s safe isn’t enough. It actually has to be safe.

“The president says we’re doing the most testing in the world. #1!”

You’re #41 in testing across the world. To reopen the economy, the science says test and contract trace so the contagion doesn’t spread.

“This is all nonsense. You just want me to be scared. I’ll go out.”

That won’t save us from another depression. Your way, more people die a horrible death and the economy implodes, anyway. I’m worried you’ll make other people sick and spread the disease, starting with your own family. I guess that’s the difference between you and me.

“Oh? How do you figure?”

You don’t care about my life but I want to save yours, because we’re all in this together. The virus doesn’t care who you vote for, but it does hit the poor and otherwise disadvantaged harder. Plus, I’ve got some dangerous comorbidities going on.

“Don’t be silly. I’m not trying to kill you– “

But you don’t care if I die. I don’t think you want to commit murder on a mass scale. You’re not evil. You’re just misguided by people who don’t care about you. You follow people who don’t care about you and I worry you’ll only realize it on your deathbed. Or at a memorial service for people you care about.

“It appears this hypothetical conversation has played out.” (Crosses arms.) “I’m not going to admit I’m wrong.”

That is the pattern. Look, I only mean well. I don’t expect you to admit you’re wrong, certainly not to me. By now, you hate me. If it makes you feel better and less invested, I don’t need your capitulation. Just please think about it and consider what’s more likely. If you don’t have empathy, no one can teach you that. But look at it as self-interest: It would really stick it to your perceived enemies if you lived.

Please note: Though a fiction that will probably only make the like-minded nod, Prepper Guy is a composite of many people I’ve observed in comment threads on Twitter and Facebook. I wish them well and hope they get the help they need.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute, author of two zombie apocalypse trilogies, This Plague of Days and AFTER Life. I’ve written a bunch of killer crime thrillers and novels about the end of the world. My latest, Citizen Second Class, pits the rich against the poor in the hellscape of Atlanta.

Check out all my books at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Further Recommended Links

Podcast listening:

COVID Tests are free, except when they’re not

Like a fire with no one to call

If I get COVID-19, what good will my insurance do me?

Why Fear-based Democracies Aren’t Free

Reading:

5 Common Beliefs That Make Disasters Worse

What good and bad people have in common



This Plague of Days in real life: More to worry about

My favorite news this week?

NASA revealed that we almost got sent back to the Dark Ages a couple of years ago. A massive solar flare (two monster flares in one, actually) just missed us. For starters, imagine all planes around the Earth simultaneously falling from the sky.

Now imagine you see this. A jet crashes in front of you! What do you do! Call for help, of course. Except your phone doesn’t work. No phones work. Anywhere. Uh-oh.

The experts say it was a rare occurrence. Could it happen again in our lifetimes? It could, but it’s only a 12 percent chance. To put this in perspective, if your parents get Alzheimers Disease, your chance of getting it is increased by around 6 percent.

Thinking this way is why people call me Mr. Sunshine!


(#VIDEO UPDATE) Apocalypse Now: What does the threat bring out in you?

Someone asked, “Do you really believe we’re headed for an apocalypse?”

Dude! The apocalypse is already here!

Sci-fi writer William Gibson said the future arrives at different speeds. Same is true of the end that could throw us backward a hundred years.

I look around and I see the power of antibiotics fading as the bugs come back stronger. There’s an excellent chance we won’t be able to have the surgeries we have now because our antibiotics will no longer work. Do you want to go back to pre-1928 medicine? Of course, not. Nobody wants to die of a sore throat, a bladder infection or appendicitis. But that is our present course. 

I see fracking causing earthquakes and flammable water in kitchen sinks.

I see perma-war.

Most disturbing, I see an unwillingness to change, anti-science and anti-intellectualism. 

Worst? I see a lack of compassion.

Citizens are in big trouble on Spaceship Earth and a lot of people, speaking from fear and ignorance, seem determined to be dicks about it.

One reviewer of This Plague of Days asked, “Why does everyone have to act like assholes in the apocalypse?”

I answer that reviewer directly in Season Three, but look around. The answer is obvious. People don’t think we’re in an apocalypse now (if they aren’t from Detroit or along the Mexican border or in Uganda.) But there already assholes everywhere. Panic and pressure brings out the nastiness stronger. It’s a scary world and people can be monsters. I didn’t invent it. I reflect it. You need look no further than the instincts of your average Internet troll.

But pressure makes diamonds, too.

Heroes can emerge. Will they? I don’t know. Are you willing to be a hero? An apocalypse — to nature, to people and to human dignity — is everywhere.

If you’re waiting for the siren call to action, it’s already howling. If we wait for the actual civil defense sirens to crank up?

Too late.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I write suspense fiction. The scariest stuff I write doesn’t feel like fiction. (But you can hang out for the jokes, too.) If you’re looking for thought provocation along with action amid monstrous destruction and desolation, have a look at This Plague of Days, Season One. The whole first season is on sale for only a buck on Amazon.

Click here for my Amazon page.

All three seasons are now available on Kobo.

To get the This Plague of Days trilogy all at once for an awesome binge-read this summer, read This Plague of Days Omnibus Edition and find the secret video link to get another free thriller.

TPOD OMNIBUS ON AMAZON

TPOD OMNIBUS ON KOBO

 

 

 


If you survived the apocalypse, what would you miss most?

The Walking Dead is about to come on, but I had to dash this off quick.

I was just listening to a TED talk about medical breakthroughs with gene sequencing, growing artificial bones and organs and individually tailored drug therapy. Despite how bad our schools often are and how nasty society can be, a lot of great things are coming our way, if the human race survives long enough to see the dawn of these discoveries.

In This Plague of Days, the Sutr flu killed sixty percent of the world’s population. That leaves a lot of screaming eating for the Sutr-Zs and the Sutr-As, but what does it leave for the surviving humans? Would you really want to survive such a harsh, uncertain future?

In World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler, the protagonist is a former businessman who, after the fall of the world as we know it, becomes a fiddler and carpenter. He has useful skills, is well-liked within his little community and things are fairly peachy for him. One thing that stands out for me about his new life is he doesn’t really seem to miss his old one. There’s no processed food to eat so most everyone’s healthier and, it seems, just about as happy.

I liked World Made By Hand plenty, five out of five stars, but that one detail didn’t ring true, for me at least. If and when the world collapses and there’s no steady power to depend upon, it shall sucketh.

In This Plague of Days, Jack and Anna lament the loss of Facebook. I would, too. Maybe that makes me pathetic, but getting together with people on social media and keeping in touch with friends is a worthy thing I don’t want to do without. I’d adjust given no alternative, of course, but I sure wouldn’t embrace being Amish.

Most of us went without the Internet for many years. We didn’t know what we were missing, but now that we do… There’s an old song about WWI that asks, “How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?” That about sums it up. Nobody wants to go backward in time.

Here are things I’d miss, post-apocalypse:

Clean, running water and a hot shower each morning, as easy as turning on the tap. Working toilets also rock. Outhouses stink.

Hot coffee (Starbucks and Williams and even Tim Hortons.)

Access to medical care. Like I said in TPOD about the ever-so-cool Walking Dead, what are these people fighting so hard for? I don’t want to die of appendicitis or pray for death, enduring an abscessed tooth, waiting for the septicemia to shut down my brain.

Facebook, Twitter, news, politics, and easy access to the world’s knowledge with a Google search? I love being plugged into the hive mind.

While looting is easy and cheap, everything I would want runs on electricity!

My secluded fortress/log cabin in the woods is awesome. Love the fireplace and the stock of wood out back…but when you don’t want to cook, it’s great to be able to pick up the phone and order in Chinese food, isn’t it?

Gosh. I hope we make it. I’d rather live in a world with working hospitals and medical miracles on the way.

What about you? What would you miss most?

 

 

 

 

 


#Free #ebook: An #autistic hero faces the end of the world

As of 2:30 pm, here’s the Amazon ranking #23 in Dystopian and #29 Post-Apocalyptic!

Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 2.47.32 PM

 

UPDATE: 

3:30 PM: #1 in Post-Apocalyptic and #2 in Dystopian!

Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 3.20.53 PM

Push it higher on Amazon’s main list with a happy click and get Episode One free now. You’re going to love it!

This Plague of Days, Episode One

is free on Amazon until midnight tomorrow night.

Do you enjoy reading:

  • a book that allows you to see the world in a new way?
  • apocalyptic scenaria where the fate of God and humankind are debated?
  • Latin phrases and wordplay?
  • international thrillers with weird and scary terrorists?
  • zombies unlike what you’ve come to expect?
  • tension that crawls up your spine and into your brain?
  • about a sweet, innocent autistic boy who rarely speaks but has hidden talents that might save the world?

If any of that appeals to you as a horror reader, click the cover below and get on board the braingasm train.

Still not sure you want that first crunchy, salty potato chip? Then get more details here.

The Zombie Apocalypse serial is here. Get 5 episodes at 99 cents each or the whole Season for $3.99. Season Two hits the world at the end of September.

The Zombie Apocalypse serial is here. Get 5 episodes at 99 cents each or the whole Season for $3.99. Season Two hits the world at the end of September.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a novelist, podcaster and former newspaper and magazine journalist. This Plague of Days is his ninth book. See all his books here.


Episode Two of This Plague of Days: Everything breaks

Read This Plague of Days. (And please, wash your hands frequently.)

This Plague of Days, Episode One (99 cents)

This Plague of Days, Episode Two (99 cents)

or

just grab

This Plague of Days, Season One

at a discount for only $3.99.

TPOD Episode 2


The book I lost a job for…and why zombies?

 

Worldwide distribution of plague infected anim...

Worldwide distribution of plague infected animals 1998 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When I began writing This Plague of Days, it wasn’t about zombies and, in a way, it still isn’t. It’s about people in desperate circumstances trying to survive extinction. Also, the infected are not the walking dead. It’s more of a 28 Days Later, humans with rabies sort of situation. Things happen that may be paranormal or they may have a rational explanation. (I won’t spoil it.)  

 

I will say that my horror serial begins with one plague that spirals society down as the virus mutates. The Sutr-X virus evolves, things get worse and, of course, the world will never be the same. There are great human losses to both strains of the virus. Jaimie and his family face illness, death, danger and betrayal. Worse? The pandemic wasn’t an accident of Nature. There’s an awesome villain and a group spreading the virus for purposes they consider noble, right and true. As the book unfolds, terrorism and the plague’s evolving horrors stretch across the world. A new strain of Sutr-X rising  in Britain puts vast forces on a collision course with the little family from America’s midwest.

 

The serial evolved into a big book that started with a character study. TPOD started in 2009/2010 with a small seed of an idea, my fascination with the world flu pandemic and a daily visit to Starbucks to write. I was so passionate about the project, I lost a job over a key health and survival issue that pitted me against the bureaucrats that employed me. I told them they were endangering healthcare workers and their families. They didn’t appreciate my input. (I take a chapter in TPOD to show those same bureaucrats how wrong they were, but that job loss and the issues around it are for another blog post on another day. I’ll get into that background when I publish that episode, no doubt.)

 

I began the book exploring the mind of the main character. It is an ensemble cast, but everyone loves sixteen-year-old Jaimie Spencer: 

 

Autism spectrum

Autism spectrum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

1. He’s on the autistic spectrum.

 

2. He is a very shy, selective mute who must hold his father’s hand when they go out in pubic.

 

3. He sees auras.

 

4. His special interest is Latin phrases and English dictionaries.

 

5. He’s in his own world.

6. Jaimie is a boy who sees significance in every detail and every word. He often gets lost in those details and so seems oblivious to danger.

 

When the Sutr plague strikes, stress and circumstance bring Jaimie closer to our world in surprising ways. When worlds touch, they ignite sparks that let his family and the reader glimpse his mind and true abilities. 

 

But why pit this strange boy against a world filled with nasty survivalists and infected, rage-filled cannibals?

 

I could tell you that high stakes and steep odds matched against a charming underdog in a tough conflict makes for a compelling story. But you already know that. The simpler answer is, I’m a bit strange, too. I do not have Aspergers Syndrome. I do, however, see the world askew and you’re going to love the odd word excursions almost as much as the zombie attacks, evil villain and my strange plague apocalypse.

 

This Plague of Days launches soon. I love surprising readers. I will.

 

 

 


Extended, special sneak peek: How This Plague of Days begins

“Basically,” Dr. Julian Sutr said, “Viruses are zombies. They are neither classifiable as living nor dead. When given the opportunity, they reproduce using a host. Their molecules form complex

Until the Sutr Virus hits here, you could read these books by Robert Chazz Chute. Just sayin'.

Until the Sutr Virus hits here, you could read these books by Robert Chazz Chute. Just sayin’.

structures but they need hosts to reproduce. Nucleic acids, proteins — ”

The Skype connection froze for a moment and then the doctor understood he was being interrupted. “—preciate your summary, doctor.” Two men in uniform and one woman in a suit, each with their own screen, regarded him with impatience.

“The virus has grown more…opportunistic. What fooled us early on was the varied rate of infection and lethality. I suspect individual variance in liver enzymes accounts — ”

The woman cleared her throat and Sutr lost his place in the notes he’d prepared for this meeting. She sighed as he fumbled with his iPad. He had too many notes and not enough time. The woman sighed and tapped a stylus on her desk. “I’m meeting with him soon, doctor. I need the bullet, please. What do I tell him?”

Sutr removed his glasses and closed his eyes. This was too important to stammer and stutter through. Finding the correct words had never mattered more. He took a deep breath but kept his eyes closed and pretended he was speaking intimately with his beloved Manisha. His wife’s name meant “wisdom” and she shared her name with the goddess of the mind. He needed her and her namesake now. “My team and I…” He took another deep breath. “The virus has jumped.”

One of the men in uniform, an admiral in white, spoke, which automatically muted Dr. Sutr’s microphone. “First it was bats, then birds, then migratory birds, then pigs and cows. What animal do we warn the WHO about now? What animal do the Chinese have to slaughter next to keep the cap on this thing? A vaccine won’t help billions of Chinese peasants if they starve to death first.”

“I’m very aware of the stakes, sir, but the virus has jumped to humans. I asked my contact at Google to watch the key words. The epidemiological mapping of the spread is already lighting up in Japan, Malaysia, Chechnya and I already have confirmation it’s in parts of the Middle East, I’m afraid.”

“What’s your next step, doctor?” the woman asked.

Sutr opened his eyes. “I’ve sent my team home. They should be with their families now. As should we all.”

The man in the green uniform, a four-star general, leaned closer to his camera, filling Sutr’s screen. “This is no time to give up the fight, doctor. We’ve got a world to save from your…what did you call it? Zombie virus?”

“Pardon me, general. It was a clumsy metaphor. My point was that viruses are dead and I can’t kill dead things. I’m afraid we lost containment. I suspect we must have lost control sometime in the last two to three weeks. Perhaps less. Maybe more. There are too many variables. This virus is a tricky one. Something new.”

The general paled. “Are you saying this disease was engineered?”

For the first time, Sutr showed irritation toward his inquisitors. “I don’t know! I told you, there are too many variables. The loss of containment could have been sabotage or someone on my team made a mistake. Maybe they were too afraid to admit their mistake. It’s possible I made a mistake and I did not recognize it as such! I’ve identified the virus signature, but the work will have to be taken up by someone else. In my opinion, we need a miracle. As a virologist who has worked with Ebola, my faith in miracles is absent. Nature doesn’t know mercy or luck. That hope was beaten out of me in Africa.”

The admiral cut in. “Look, you’re already headed for the Nobel by identifying the virus. There’s time. We have to hope — ” but the woman in the suit held up a hand and he fell silent.

“We do appreciate the complexity of the challenge before us, Dr. Sutr. That’s why we need you. You’re the best and you’re farther along in the research than any of the other labs.” The woman looked conciliatory now and her voice took on a new, soothing note. “We’re very anxious to have you continue.”

Dr. Sutr stiffened. “I’ve already composed and sent an email for the lab network. You’ll have the entire data dump and I’ve made extra notes so your teams won’t waste time with what hasn’t worked. Dan, at CDC will coordinate my latest data to the other nodes. Good luck with it.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed. “You were vague about the virus gaining traction in ‘parts of the Middle East’. Have you line of sight confirmation, doctor?”

“Yes. I’ve seen the virus’s work in person. Here in Dubai, in my own house. Tarun, my baby boy died last night. My wife, Manisha, followed him to see where he went early this morning.”

“We’re so sorry for your loss, Julian,” the woman said. “Are you infected?”

“I have no doubt I will die.”

“How long have you got, son?” the Admiral said. “You’ve said the infection gradient and lethality is so variable…you could keep working. We could still defeat this thing.”

Julian Sutr’s voice came firm and steady. “General, Admiral…Madam Secretary. It’s entirely possible that I brought it home to them. My wife and child are dead by the virus that bears my name. I should have been an obstetrician like my mother. She brought life into the world…” A tear slipped down the doctor’s cheek. “You people ask me what you should tell him. Go to your briefing. Tell him that, in all likelihood, he is the last President of the United States.”

Dr. Julian Sutr picked up the Sig Sauer P220 from his desk, placed the muzzle under his chin and pulled the trigger.


H7N9: The new bird flu

Remember the threat of H5N1 (AKA Avian Influenza or Bird Flu)?

 Here’s a link to an article about H7N9. It’s killed 22 in China as of this writing, but because infection hasn’t occurred in migratory birds and markets that

 

English: Chinese inspectors on an airplane, ch...

English: Chinese inspectors on an airplane, checking passengers for fevers (a symptom of swine flu). Taken in China after arrival, prior to exiting the plane. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

sell the birds have been closed, the spread of the disease has been slow. What’s most worrying about H7N9 is that appears to spread to humans easier than previous strains of bird flu.

 

One of the other things that’s aiding global safety from world flu pandemics is that, after denying that SARS was a problem, China was embarrassed when they finally had to admit they had a huge problem with the disease. After they lied about their SARS event, the Chinese government took unprecedented steps toward transparency. They’re better at reporting their problems with contagious disease now. Awareness and sharing of information are ways we will have a chance at containing outbreaks and preventing contagion.

You’re being tracked

 

Another interesting approach comes from a marriage of epidemiologists and the Internet. Internet searches are tracked for key words. If there’s an uptick in people googling flu symptoms, for instance, maps can be made of the spread of viruses based on the searchers’ locations. This grassroots epidemiological data tracks rates of viral infection and serves as an early warning system so authorities can take steps to warn and protect health care workers, hold quarantines, restrict travel and warn the public to use precautions.

 

Precautions in case of world flu pandemic may include:

Public awareness campaigns to wash your hands (do that anyway, for God’s sake!); social distancing; banning public gatherings; house arrest; quarantines for public safety; border closings; travel restrictions; promoting the use of masks, etc.,…

 

When the crap hits the ceiling fan, it pays to be warned and prepared for a world flu pandemic. Governments are working behind the scenes (often with underfunded agencies, departments and programs) to get ready for such catastrophic events.

What are you doing to prepare?

 


The Sutr Virus: What happened?

From this morning’s revisions of This Plague of Days.

Grant Ave. in Chinatown, San Francisco.

Grant Ave. in Chinatown, San Francisco. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seemed it was already too late for most cities. However, many small towns that had survived the plague by brutally defending their borders, shooting trespassers and discouraging strangers. Successful survivors rooted out contagion and walled it off quickly, staying apart from the infected and shooting anyone who would compromise their security. That’s why the hospitals were dead. They took people in. The VA hospital on his own base had become a death house before word of the plague had spread through the forts’s hometown of Helena.

Similarly but on a grander scale of destruction, Carron knew San Francisco had been forced to billet soldiers returning from the Middle East when all the troops were recalled. San Francisco had fallen first and fastest than any American city for that reason. Citizens had welcomed the veterans (some of whom already had Sutr before they deployed from the ships) and so everyone died of compassion. San Francisco had been too kind to survive the New World.

From the safety of a military bunker in Montana, Lieutenant Carron had read the reports, watched the world fall, and passed the incoming intelligence reports to his superiors until his superiors fell sick, too. Some lived through Sutr’s fevers. Most died. Lieutenant Francis Carron didn’t so much as catch a cold and he would not give a sliver of compassion the chance to infect him.


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