Greetings from Planet Flu, and a Few Thoughts on the Virus in "The Bird Saviors"

So I should say “Greetings, Fellow Flu Victims!” as it seems everyone I know, have ever known, or will know has the flu right now, which is to some extent why I haven’t posted anything in a while. My bout with it wasn’t too bad, but bad enough to knock me out for several days. The best flu/literature story I have is that way back when (1979?), when Stephen King’s The Stand was first published, I read it one holiday season in college when I was sick with the flu and could not go home for Christmas. I did research on viruses for my novel The Bird Saviors, which features a wicked virus outbreak, though much less damaging than the bird flu pandemics often imagined, such as in the film Contagion. The virus I cooked up is actually more realistic, I think, than these doomsday scenarios, and boils down to mortality rates. One of the scary things about a potential bird flu outbreak, if it were easily transmitted airborne particles, is that mortality rates for it now are upwards of 50% of people infected, which is a very high mortality rate for any virus. The one I imagined is a more difficult virus to understand (like HIV), yet with a much lower mortality rate, say 5-10%. That would be catastrophic for the world, and would probably be classified as a pandemic (if it circulated widely), but would not cause the extreme social disruption often imagined with a virulent bird flu outbreak. Why I think this is more realistic: There are a great number of virus outbreaks in the world over any given period of time (say, a decade or two), and most of them, even the worst, have lower mortality rates than that astronomical 50% figure. Which brings us to the current flu outbreak: It’s bad, but of course it could be much worse. I hope all you sufferers are feeling better, or will get better soon.

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