The Viral: The Siti Virus

Simply put, those who develop Siti go… a little crazy. The brain, for the most part, shuts down in response to severe, crippling dehydration. What’s left has only one goal: to get water.


I’m Syd and you’re listening to Viral, where we discuss the most gruesome, disturbing, perverse, and ultimately compelling disease outbreaks in the history of humanity. To any new listeners listeners out there: Welcome! To all the loyal returners: welcome back! That latter group may recognize that this is our first new episode in almost a year now. So it’s a very special
episode – today we’ll be discussing the pandemic that actually forced us to evacuate our offices in San Francisco, California and relocate to Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada. Let’s jump right in; looking back some nine months later, we now have a pretty good idea of what happened in California that summer. First of all, we know now the identity of the disease: the siti virus. That’s “siti” spelled s-i-t-i, and Latin for “lack of water” or “drought.” Simply put, those who develop Siti go… a little crazy. The brain, for the most part, shuts down in response to severe, crippling dehydration. What’s left has only one goal: to get water. For our die-hard listeners, you’ll remember that a few episodes back we discussed rabies, and how rabies victims were perceived to be “afraid” of water since they had a hard time swallowing. You can think of the Siti virus as having the opposite effect, as its victims crave water and water only.

The mutation in our DNA that makes us susceptible to Siti is very new and still being explored. Lab teams from around the world have been flocking to Northern California to test water samples, soil samples, and all are doing groundbreaking research. What do we know so far about the mutation? It seems as though it develops in exceedingly poor communities. In communities whose inhabitants overwhelmingly cannot afford healthcare, let alone a trip to an ER.

Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering how Siti took hold of Northern California that summer, wreaking so much havoc that many residents were forcibly evacuated before more chaos could ensue? So let’s back up and look at what was going on in the San Francisco area at the time of the epidemic. As many of you will know, California was in a drought, one of the worst in its history. With reservoir levels dwindling dangerously, and rains evading the massive state, the drought was beginning to pervade into every aspect of life. It really came down to socio-economic standing. When the reservoirs ran out, corporations placed exorbitant prices on bottled water. Only the wealthy could afford to pay. When that water ran out, smugglers placed
even higher prices on water they brought in from other countries. And only the wealthy could afford to pay. So we have these poor people who are already so vulnerable to Siti, and suddenly they are critically dehydrated. Most cannot afford to go to the hospital, and anyways, hospital resources are mostly devoted to the middle class, who are experiencing mild dehydration. This was the perfect storm; the virus easily took hold, and easily spread.

What happened next? Well, as many of you will remember, chaos ensued. The poor people needed water, and would do anything to get it. With bodily need overpowering brain function, the poor rebelled. Anarchy, disarray, pandemonium…those words don’t begin to describe the siege of San Francisco. The National Guard was called in but they stood no chance; those with Siti had no sense left of pain, as that part of their brain had shut down. And California has an alarmingly number of residents living in poverty, not even counting all the seasonal migrant workers there that summer who barely make a living. So there was an unimaginable number of zombie-like, Siti infected, poor-in-more-ways-than-one Californians throwing themselves at the National Guard, and they just wouldn’t stay down. Ultimately, the wealthy residents and most middle class residents were evacuated, and spared… that includes us.

We were lucky. San Francisco, not so much. Those with Siti perished, as the National Guard burned our beloved city to the ground. Last we heard, we may be able to start returning in a few months, once the lab teams have ensured that the virus has been eradicated. Then maybe we can rebuild it from the ground up.

And now, as always, we turn to our listeners. Last week on Twitter we asked you to call in with any questions about the Siti virus. Let’s hear what some of you are curious about! I’ll pick at random here aaand, ah!

(Sarah) Hiiiii Syd I’m so excited that you guys are back! I had a lot of friends and family in the Bay Area so this issue hits close to home for me. I personally strive to get my two litres a day, but with driving the kids to school and volunteering on the PTA and… yeah with all that busyness sometimes water falls through the cracks! Someone from East Coast, expresses sympathy, had friends/family in CA. But I guess now I’m just wondering if I’m at risk? Let me know thaaaaanks!

(Syd) Um thanks for the question, Sarah. Well, simply put, you’re probably not at risk. Siti requires extreme dehydration to take hold, as in going without a full glass of water for days or weeks on end. As long as you’re getting even 1 litre a day, you’ll be fine. Thanks again!

Alrighttt, and this Alma from Tucson.

(Alma) Hello Viral and Syd, thank you so much for doing this episode. I really missed your podcast because you guys have such great… sound quality. It probably says I’m calling from Arizona but I’m originally from Northern California, and I was evacuated as well, so this is an important episode for me on a personal level. And I’m wondering if you could discuss potential cures for Siti? Thanks!

(Syd) Great question, Alma, and thank you for that measured compliment about Viral’s sound quality. The lab teams in California now will surely use their research to develop a vaccine and they are optimistic about getting the vaccine out fast. But we have to remember that the root of this problem is and always will be class, and how that relates to healthcare access.

More than vaccines, this should serve as a reminder that the poor simply do not have the ability to be as healthy as the rich. And this must change. Universal health care, accessible emergency rooms, et cetera et cetera. We have to change.

That’s all we have today, guys. I sincerely hope you learned something and that you tune in next week as we will be back to our weekly episodes now that we’ve officially resettled and unpacked in our new office. Again, this is Viral, I’m your host, Syd. Don’t forget to wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, and we’ll see you next week for another episode of Viral. Stay healthy!!


Image Credit:Photo by Paul Robert on Unsplash

Sydney Goldman Written by:

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