The Sun has set in Kino Bay, is America next?
Reporting from the Congressional Press Room in Washington, D.C.
AFTER being spared during its 2012 run mostly through sheer luck and the quick work of Roman authorities, the Byzantine flu is set to make a comeback in North America, and at a worryingly dizzying pace.
North American Union Department of Health Director Doctor Charles "Morty" Morton reported today that the NAU has a cumulative total of 5,742 cases of the Byzantine flu, a type of norovirus or the "stomach bug", since the first case was reported in Sunshine City on August 6. Of those reported cases, 1,012 have died from the disease, for a case fatality rate of 17.6%.
Morton called the numbers "deeply concerning", but what worried him more was that today came reports of outbreaks elsewhere in the NAU with no link to Sunshine City. Sunshine City remains the epicentre of the epidemic, with 4,422 cases being reported there alongside 792 deaths since their outbreak began, but today localized clusters were found in Phoenix, Arizona (341 cases and 44 deaths), Nogales, Sonora (308 cases and 55 deaths) and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (429 cases and 99 deaths). Morton speculated the Phoenix and Nogales clusters could be linked to travel with Sunshine City, nearby in Kino Bay, Sonora, but he had no answers for how the Pittsburgh cluster popped up.
"The Pittsburgh outbreak is too large for it to be a case of simply people coming back from Sunshine City," said Morton. "There has to be some community transmission, which has significant implications for the continent as a whole."
Morton explained this is because the Byzantine flu is a "tricky" virus. Most cases tend to be mild, meaning many spread it without even knowing. It is mostly spread via the "fecal to oral" route, such as touching a contaminated surface and putting that dirty hand in your mouth or on your food, but it is widely believed the Byzantine flu can also spread via aerosols if someone infected vomits or defecates on a surface, or even has a bout of flatulence. Some scientists (including Morton) believe it could also spread via saliva or respiratory droplets, though this is debated.
"This means we could have one person infect hundreds," said Morton, "if not thousands in a matter of minutes, especially if the event is indoors and poorly ventilated and sanitized. Sunshine City has managed to keep their cases down because the initial outbreak occurred outdoors, but given that much of North America is built with indoor movement in mind, if the Byzantine flu spreads into the wider community, it could cause some real havoc."
Currently, only Sunshine City is in a state of emergency, ordering the shuttering of almost all of its businesses on August 7. Residents are also currently barred from leaving city limits, with a curfew of 8PM imposed on the city. Sunshine City Mayor Gino Fuentes says the City is also doing all it can to clean and sanitize city surfaces, even urging its residents to do so at home, but also said the City has a number of issues that cannot be "immediately" repaired, such as a lack of hospital supplies and outdated sewage and reservoir infrastructures.
Morton warns the same could happen in the NAU as a whole, with a potential lockdown possibly lasting "months" or even a year.
"Our infrastructure and our resources are lacking," said Morton. "There are only so many times you can clean an old pipe or an old wall before you realize you can't get rid of all the dirt. We also have to remember that few of our hospitals are equipped to adequately handle the disease, which is going to take time to rectify."
Morton was then asked why this situation didn't play out in 2012, when the rest of the world experienced the pandemic. Morton responded by reminding the reporter that the continent did have its outbreaks, but also noted that the Romans- who have a protectorate over North America- intervened with experimental drugs and treatments, some of which the Roman Empire later approved for use in their territories. Morton then added that just because Rome approved a product for the Empire doesn't mean that it was automatically approved for use in North America.
"The NAU is still an independent entity," said Morton. "The Romans don't make decisions for us- they just have several legions based here. We make our own decisions."
This means that the NAU- like much of the rest of the world outside of Rome- have no treatments or vaccines approved for the Byzantine flu. When asked why the NAU hasn't approved of any of those therapeutics, despite the fact several of them were tested in North America, Morton said they had "serious side effects" that "preclude their approval in North America". Morton declined to elaborate on this point or cite any studies or documents that backed up his claim.
Regardless, Morton said, even if those therapeutics were "approved tomorrow", it would still take upwards to six months or even a year to meet the demand in the NAU. This is because the Roman stockpile is only enough for their territories, meaning there would need to be a massive amount needed to be produced for North America and ramping up that production takes time.
"The Roman Empire has 1.2 billion inhabitants," said Morton. "The NAU has roughly half of that, with 660 million people. That's before you take into account that, like the rest of the world, the Romans had the Byzantine flu contained, so they don't need a massive stockpile of therapeutics. We will. We can't conjure that stuff out of thin air."
Morton ended his press conference by stating he is going to "monitor the situation" and recommend the appropriate policy in the upcoming days. Though he said a Sunshine City-style mass shutdown being imposed across the entire NAU was "likely", he did state he "hopes we can avoid it".
A representative for President Kimberly Barhaven stated the President has "made no decisions" at this time, as "Madam President is continuing to monitor the situation". Roman Prefect Eva Avita deferred to Barhaven, since Avita has "no authority" to make decisions regarding healthcare or shutdowns. The Office of the Roman Emperor, Erasmus, also refused comment, again citing their lack of authority in the matter.