Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Stub 6.7: Unwind

The breakthrough in the pseudo-polio epidemic came from an unexpected source.

What had been most vexing to the public health officials was that most of the victims were young, otherwise very healthy, active and generally spent a great deal of time outdoors. This was the very demographic one would expect to be most resistant to any plague.

The onset had been swift and seemed unrelated to climate. It occurred in high desert, Louisiana bayous to Canadian snow fields.

The breakthrough came from one of the outliers, a group of middle-aged people, mostly women, who were heavy users of dermatological services.

Joan Rios was an iconic comedian notable for being in her seventies and having skin stretched as tightly as the batter head of a snare drum. Apparently she also liked rough sex. One of the men she picked up at a local bar accommodated her penchant for being biffed while being boffed and left bruises on her face. The history of fading bruises was duly recorded in the tabloids as was the sudden onset of pseudo-polio a week later.

Health officials were able to add two-and-two together. They pulled tissue samples from where the bruises had last faded and found....Clostridium botulinum UCB-257nte.

Blood tests of a broad spectrum of pseudo-polio patients, including little Susie Derkins tested positive for antibodies specific to Clostridium botulinum.

Swabs of air ducts at Azrael facilities proved they were loaded with C. botulinum, even facilities that did not manufacture C.b. based products.

Quick reviews of quality documentation proved criminal amounts of falsification. The cockroach program had done its job well.

The unwind was stunning in its speed and the ferocity it unleashed in the public. The first whiff of trouble wafted through Zev Azrael's dashboard at 9:17 in the morning. Crowds were chanting outside the headquarter's gates at noon. Zev worked late trying to placate regulators but every attempt to exhonorate the process only uncovered more incriminating evidence.

Word of disturbances outside his home north of Foothills College reached him an hour after sunset.


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