Friday, May 11, 2012

Secondary Infection

We've long theorized about the zombie plague. We've studied it as much as our limited technology will allow. It's incredibly strange to look at on the whole, combining elements of a fungus, a bacteria, a virus, and even complex parasites. We know it grows inside most living people, though there have been some cases where kids and even a couple of adults have been autopsied after death and found without a trace of the plague. Given the rate of transmission, which seems close to total, we're pretty sure it's airborne. Really, it would almost have to be to spread so far and wide.

And here's an interesting idea: not all of the mutations of the plague have been beneficial ones. While the general trend for these lightning-fast evolutionary leaps has been positive for the organism (New Breed, Smarties, the development of cold resistance, etc) we've also seen some examples of incompatibility between variations of it. The New Breed can infect normal zombies with their strain, but it doesn't take in all of them. Sometimes the only thing the New Breed has to do is be near old school zombies to infect them with the more advanced version of the disease, and sometimes they seem to need to bite to make the infection work.

Today, we've got some pretty strong evidence that some kind of defective version of the plague organism is spreading around.

We thought it was pneumonia, you see.

Four people are currently laid up in the clinic with the same symptoms the Louisville folks we kept here had. This supports the idea that the plague spores or whatever you want to call them are airborne. It makes sense that they would lodge in the lungs and spread from there, after all. The lungs are the gateway to the bloodstream, which obviously permeates the entire body. What we thought was pneumonia in our people appears to be another version of the zombie plague, the first version we've seen that affects living people directly. It causes respiratory problems--not good mojo for an organism that takes you over. Bad to kill the host before you can override and replace the existing version of the plague within, right?

Evans and the other brainy medical folks have been looking over their notes and throwing ideas around for the last few days, trying to figure out exactly what is happening. One of the patients has zombie wounds, but the other three don't. Two are male, two female. One is a child, the rest adults. Whatever this thing is, if it's really a strain of the plague that's gone off the evolutionary rails, it's bad. We saw half the Louisville crew that were sick die from this. A fifty percent mortality rate is terrifying beyond rational thought.

The reason Evans is sure this is another version of the plague is simple, by the way--he did a lung biopsy on one of our newly ill patients. Risky as things are now, but the patient volunteered. Under a microscope, he could see a slightly altered version of the plague organism next to perfect examples of the New Breed strain. Though it wasn't as interesting to watch as mixed martial arts, Evans says the two varieties acted like a host and disease as one tried to invade and destroy while the other defended.

Survival is hard enough, but this changes the whole game. My desperate hope was that the six people from Louisville that got sick--who represented about one in ten of the people in the Louisville group that came here--were indicative of how virulent this thing is. If only one in ten catches it when exposed, and only half those succumb, then we may be alright. Hurting for the losses of those unfortunate people who might die, but secure in the knowledge that the actual fatality rate is only five percent instead of the apparent fifty it looks like right now.

I really hate feeling helpless, and I've never felt more so in my life than right now. I can fight an enemy. I can defend my home or run away. If my crops fail I can hunt for dinner and eat wild foods. I can even handle more abstract threats by making my home so defensible that bad people would think it too hard a target.

We can't fight this. We can only hope to survive. I'll be following it closely, have no doubt.


  1. There you go talking numbers again. Is it always only about survival? You talk about the lose of people as numbers, which I understand maybe your way of helping you cope. But will you feel the same way if one of the 5% potential lost is your wife, Pat's nieces, Will, your entire medical staff or you?

    It seems to me that New Haven focuses on defense and food, which should be a focus for obvious reasons. What is the longtime focus? Survivability is a good skill to teach, but what about sustainability?

  2. The entire point is sustainability. When I'm talking numbers here, I'm hoping that we don't face the devastating loss of half our population. I'm not sure how you see hoping one in two people don't die is a negative. Don't think for a second I haven't thought about losing someone I love to this, nor should you think that I'm happy about the idea we'd lose even one person. But when push comes to shove, it's a matter of sustainability. Period. New Haven can't survive with so few people.

    I'm going to post about this tomorrow.

  3. It's too bad you aren't in contact with anyone that worked in a germ warfare lab in a previous life, one could imagine the potential of two competing strains as a weapon against the undead. Risky given the human implication... But refined, honed, and focused towards some B-movie rejects? Now there's a thought.

  4. It's not that heartless to view the statistics of human loss due to this new strain. It's actually a way to monitor if this new strain is evolving in the future, ie an increase in infection and fatality. Talking numbers does not make a heartless's a concern that is highly viable due to means of defense as well as whether quarantine may need to be a factor in the future as well as finding new means for the people going out there to defend themselves from this strain. Heartless would be saying, "Oh good..more food for everyone else"