The R-22 Virus

Jefferies: Good afternoon and welcome back to CDN, your source for all global health news. This is Sam Jeffries. Over the course of the past few months, a number of diseases ran through the world, cutting the population nearly in half. An investigation into these diseases revealed that they were all mutations of a single virus. Epidemiologist Sandra Bennett from the World Health Organization is here with us today to explain the nature of these diseases.

Doctor Bennett, thank you for being on the show with us today.

Bennett: Please, it’s my pleasure.

Jefferies: So can you please explain the outbreak of these diseases to us?

Bennett: Of course. First of all, all of the diseases actually are mutations of single virus which has been named R-22. The R-22 virus is a single stranded RNA virus which is similar to HIV and has the potential to quickly mutate. Due to this trait, it was extremely difficult to create a cure for this disease.

Jefferies: Is that so? Is this the only reason that we do not yet have a cure for this virus? Isn’t it true that the government did not work to immediately quarantine this virus upon first discovery?

Bennett: Well… you see, the first traces of the R-22 virus were found in a particularly rural area of China just outside of Beijing. In such a heavily populated area it is extremely difficult to quickly contain such a virus. Additionally, the disease was nearly impossible to detect in its early stages.

Jefferies: And why was that?

*Brief pause*

Bennett: In early stages of the disease it only exhibited symptoms of the common cold and was nearly undiagnosable by doctors. The virus is also extremely contagious and spread rapidly throughout populations.

Jefferies: So you say that it was near impossible to diagnose? However, last week we had an interview with someone who was visiting Beijing had been among the first people to be infected with the R-22 while in China. Shall we see what they had to say?

Interviewee:  물론 뭔가 이상하다고 알았지요. 중국뇌에서 어떤 병이 퍼뜨렸다는 것도
알았고요. 근데 병원을 찾아가면 그냥 감기라고 하고, 동내사람들은 계속 죽어가고. 제가
한국으로 돌아간 후 제 가족도 곧 감염 됐고, 3주 후에 R22 바이러스로 죽었습니다.

Translation: We all knew that something was wrong. Everyone was getting sick from some sort of unknown disease. We went to the doctor and he told us that it was just a cold but soon people in the area where I had stayed began dying one after another. That week I traveled back home and infected my family. My daughter and wife died three weeks later.

Jefferies: Doctor Bennett, this person says that they sought out medical help but it was just brushed off as the common cold. Why was it that there was no way to distinguish between the two?

Bennett: … The doctors lacked the necessary medical equipment to analyze the genetic sequence of the virus which would have showed that we were dealing with something more than just the common cold. This disease was also particularly difficult to control because it would lay dormant within a person for several weeks after the person contracted the disease. During this time, disease was highly contagious and the person could unknowingly infect hundreds of others.

Jefferies: There are a lot of places in the world that lack the proper equipment and supplies to diagnose and treat the ill. Is the WHO doing anything to fix this problem?

Bennett: … I’m sorry. I cannot comment on that issue.

Jefferies: Very well then. There is also the issue of how long it took the government to react to this outbreak. The records that I have here say that the virus was first detected in May of this year, but the WHO didn’t take action against this disease until late July.

Bennett: I will acknowledge that the WHO and most all governments were late to take action on this issue. This is a problem that must be resolved in the future to better control disease outbreaks. However, it is also the responsibility of the general public to take action and seek help when needed. If both governments and people just like you can me can work together, then perhaps we can minimize disease outbreaks for good.

Jefferies: Thank you Doctor Bennett. This virus… it is unlike anything that we have ever seen before. Do think that this could have been something that biologically engineered rather than being a product of nature?

Bennett: Excuse me Mr. Jefferies but are you suggesting Bioterrorism?

Jefferies: Yes, I am.

Bennett: Ah… well… I can’t say that the possibility never crossed our minds. This virus it just seemed too perfect to be a product of nature. The genetic code was something that was never seen before and doesn’t have an distinct similarities to other viruses. Additionally, the virus was already resistant to many of the common antiviral treatments. It was too deadly of a disease for most human immune systems to fight off and the result of that was a high number of deaths. Currently, we cannot say for certain that it was not an act of Bioterrorism but what we do know is that we still need to work together towards the eradication of this deadly virus.

Jefferies: Thank you for your time today Doctor Bennett. That will be all for this week folks. Thank you for joining us today for another episode of CDN. Please tune in again next week if we’re all still alive.

I would like to thank my friend, Matthew Yun for helping me translate part of this podcast and for starring as Leon Bennett, the interviewee, and translator.

Image Credit: Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash
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