View Full Version : I need help plaguing the earth

09-11-2008, 11:04 AM
In my WIP the world gets wiped out by a plague/virus. This virus blankets the earth's main population centers. The main focus on the story is finding areas that are untainted. The plague/virus also acts as a traditional disease which can be transferred by infected people meaning that even unaffected areas can be contaminated causing the small areas that are still inhabitable to shrink.

That's how it has to function for the story, but when I came up with the idea I didn't really look into how it would function compared to something realistic. Actually, it was originally the story supposed to be a nuclear war and fallout (hence the finding untainted land part) but since that was done to death I figured a virus of some sort would make for a better story. But I'm still frustrated as to how I describe how this type of plague would work.

09-11-2008, 02:16 PM
Some historians say past plagues followed roads etc, starting at ports and radiating out. Others suggest an asteroid brought the disease first and the dispersal was actually sporadic and some outcrops cannot be explained by the human carrier theory.

09-11-2008, 02:43 PM
If the disease can't survive outside the human body (or is dormant outside the body), the only infected places would be where an infected person has been (and transmitted it to someone else who infects someone else and so on).

So while one infected person could come into a city and everyone there would end up infected; it'd be possible for some of the smaller villages to remain clean.

I think. But I'm good at being wrong.

09-11-2008, 05:59 PM
The key question will be the vector. Is your disease airborne? Transmitted by a carrier? Does it have to be injested? Contracted via skin contact?

Is it a bacteria, a virus, a fungus, or a toxin? How long can it exist outside of a body before it dies or breaks down?

For a genuinely horriffic look at what a parasitic fungus can do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgkL8PulPdE

And a similar fungus once in a human being: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DStwXsmZ3OE

(Emphasis on fungus in this post because it's often overlooked as a way of causing death in end-of-the-world scenarios, and because it's naaaaasty!)

If it's airborne, how have people in remote areas failed to contract it? Is there a similar, weaker pathogen in their local area which they are exposed to which has granted them a stronger immune system against this particular thing? Has it died before reaching them?

If ingested, how does it get into the food / water supply? If a virus, how is it transmitted? How did it get so far but not reach your remote locations? Is it carried by fleas / mosquitoes / ticks / etc?

Once you figure out how your plague is spread, the rest'll be easy :)

09-11-2008, 07:24 PM
There are several things that have to be considered:

Vector - airborne, body fluids, skin contact, insects, rats, etc.

Lethality - How quickly the virus becomes fatal. Actually, the faster a virus kills you, the easier it is to stop it from spreading. If you have no symptoms for two weeks, you can pass the virus along to a lot of people before anyone suspects you are a carrier.

Origin - If the virus originates in a remote area, it is possible to contain it before it reaches the rest of the world. On the other hand, if a carrier sneezes inside a 747 bound for any major metropolitan city, you've now got over 400 carrier spreading the disease in all directions.

Virility - of the virus. If the virus can live in a dormant state outside the human host, or on the deceased remains, the possibility of spreading the disease increases exponentially.

To answer your question about safe havens, the communities would have to quarantine themselves early in the process and strictly enforce the quarantine. It is unlikely a virus would cross the quarantine border outside a host (carrier).
If the virus is carried by insects (mosquitos), the safe haven would have to be in an area free of that type of insect.

09-12-2008, 03:15 AM
Yeah, it was a case where I should have done more research, but really I concentrated on the story first. Actually they discover that the virus was made so that it specifically effected high population areas and highly populated areas. Apart of the conspiracy was to lower the population of the planet as much as possible and essentially "heard" the survivors in to quarantined areas. The makers of the virus are aware of the exact areas that are not infected and are aware of the places that everyone has or will turn into a settlement. The problem with this of course is the fast rate the it spreads meaning that knowing the unaffected areas becomes useless when one sick person infecting a clean area throw that out the window.

Dispersal is something I didn't much thought into I'm ashamed to say. It can't be airborn because after the initial outbreak it doesn't continue to spread except through human contact.

I forgot to say that the WIP doesn't deal with the virus itself but takes place nearly a century after it's destroyed the planet and deal with humanities recovery. For this reason the virus would never die. As for quarantine, as another part of the conflict all countries have been put under a forced quarantine. Impenetrable barriers surround every major country and/or continent. The reason for this was to not only stop the spread but also so that countries that were effected the least would not take advantage of those who were heavily infected.

For origin this is what makes the virus so shocking is that all of the areas are effected at the same time right down to the second...almost as if it was apart of some plan...

Anyway, I really appreciate the help and anything you can give me is really appreciated.

09-12-2008, 03:37 AM
Rats, rats, rats, rats.

Have rats carrying diseases get into major transportation vehicles (ones that travel overseas, like boats, planes, etc.) over vast land too, like trains or subways.


Deb Kinnard
09-12-2008, 04:12 AM
The spread of the Black Death in the 14th century is blamed on rats, but the principal vector is thought to have been fleas. Yours might be an arbovirus (medical slang for arthropod-borne virus) carried by one of the more widespread mosquitoes. Then, it can get into places where no infected human has gone.

Just a thought.

09-12-2008, 04:17 AM
I just can't but help pointing out The Stand, by Stephen King. His was the superflu, but it was so well done that as an author you should consider it.

09-12-2008, 07:25 PM
The flu is your best prospect it can be fast to spread, would concentrate on urban areas and can be very deadly. Ebola is spread primarily by touch and here in the US we don't touch each other much. Mosiquito borne diseases generally aren't that fatal and DDT would quickly be called up again before it got out of hand. Modern nations don't have serious problems with rats and fleas so bubonic plague is out. STDs don't spread fast enough to both infect and kill the whole population (if they kill quickly then they wouldn't spread very far).

Another option would be genetically modified, weaponized flu, pox, or mosquito borne menengitis or malaria. This last would would require that the source vector be quickly spread around the world by the perputrators rather than progressing naturally.

09-15-2008, 05:07 PM
I've heard rumors that the Soviet Communists were playing around with crossing Ebola and Small Pox (god help us all), combining the incredible lethality of the prior with Small Pox's extreme contagiousness. You may use something akin to that as an interesting kick-off.

As others have mention there is also Avian Flu of course, the potential of a mutant strain is truly horrific, or something rather oddball like a mutation of SARS, which in itself almost became a huge deal but fortunately mutated backwards into something weaker.

09-16-2008, 05:24 AM
What about water dispursal with an incubation period. That way it could be coordinated throughout large cities and people would be infected before they could sound the alarm. It could also have a limited air transmission phase so it would spread outside the cities.

Question: Is this a world wide thing, or a single country? I think that would play a large role in how people would react.

09-16-2008, 06:18 AM
I don't know specific viruses. If you check NOVA and PBS history of shows, they discuss all sort of research being done on that H virus and other viruses. There are some viruses so bad that only 2 or 3 (supposedly) labs in the world have the stuff. Maybe someone who works in such a lab could swipe said virus and vial gets broke? If you need it true to life you will have to search what those viruses are. I cannot name them. If it is fiction, you can name your virus and you can make it do whatever you want. There will typically be people who are immune to the virus for some reason (for instance I cannot ever get strep throat for I am a beta strep carrier). Those could be your populations. You can watch Resident Evil or that one with Will Smith (I Am Legand - I think) to see how this stuff gets spread. They should give you possible scenarios on how to spread your disease/virus.

Good luck - sounds interesting.


09-16-2008, 06:25 AM
One important touch is to have a disease with an incubation period where it produces no symptoms (maybe up to a week) but the person infected is still highly contagious.

This really helps the spread of the disease, and is medically possible and even somewhat common.

Smiling Ted
09-16-2008, 10:26 AM
In addition to viri, bacteria, fungi and toxins, there are also parasitic infestations that vary in size from single-celled organisms (e.g. giardia, amoebic dysentery) all the way up to visible parasites (e.g. tapeworms, heartworms).

Some parasites can hibernate for years, and the vector spreads are incredibly varied: water; food; animal; contact....

In short, you can decide the vector and dormancy yourself, and design whatever will work best for you.

09-16-2008, 04:20 PM
I did something similar once where aliens wanted to clear the planet for takeover. They used an alien parasite. Once the humans got a grip, they began to understand that the parasite was not limited only to themselves. That might have been short-sighted of me, but I think depending on the speed of take-over, the world would go into a tail-spin initially, hospitals overrun, road clogged, CDC nodding off over their microscopes.

The thing to do is figure out first exactly how wide spread you want the disease, then make up one that will work to do the deed. Think like Mother Nature. She works on this daily.

09-17-2008, 03:29 AM
If this is a sinister plot, perhaps the virus or whatever could target certain types of genes. If you have the recessive gene for what ever disease you will get sick, if you don't, you'll be fine but scared out of your mind. It would throw in the whole survival of who we see is the fittest aspect to it. And also, who is "We"?

Horrible thought, target those with asthma, which I believe is more prevalent in larger cities (I have it too, so I'd be screwed)