Rick and Kate were visiting Kelly and his wife Di. They alternated weeks. One week Rick and Kate would host and Kelly and Di brought the libation. The next week Kelly and Di would host. It was a lot cheaper than going out for entertainment.
Di was showing Kate the paintings she had finished since the last visit. Di liked to stay busy.
About a half dozen acrylics were propped up against the wall in the sparsely furnished, wood floored living room. As might be expected of an artist, the house was abundantly supplied with windows. It only took one glance to see that Di favored large splashes of vivid colors...Brilliant blue skies, parrots, lush meadows and gaudy irises, orchids and sunflowers.
Rick and Kelly were in the sunroom sipping a white wine from Chile. Rick was overwhelmed by the task of nation-building. There were just too many pieces.
Kelly was giving Rick a pep talk and trying to coach Rick on the art of recruiting others.
Meanwhile, Kate was being drawn out by Di in the living room. Di wasn’t in-the-loop but she knew something was afoot.
“So Rick thinks the flu that has been in the news might destroy civilization?” Di exclaimed. “Is he nuts?”
Kate shrugged. “That is just the way Rick is. He goes off on these jags. ‘Full immersion’, he calls it.”
“He is super-energetic while he is learning something new and then he kind of mopes when he gets to the end of it. It just seems to be how he learns.” Kate said.
The girls helped themselves to goblets of wine as then joined the boys in the sunroom.
Without preamble Di braced Rick “So what is this about the flu ending civilization? It sounds like a good story.” Her inflection on the word ‘story’ was totally neutral. Her inflection didn’t imply she thought it was bullshit nor did it imply that she bought in.
“I am not sure it is the flu.” Rick said. “The last outbreak of Ebola in Africa is now endemic in four countries and is in fast-smolder mode. The symptoms of this ‘flu’ look a lot like Ebola.”
“Wouldn’t the government tell us it was Ebola?” Di asked.
“Have you looked at the stock market lately? It has been a dead-man walking. The government is doing everything it can to prop it up.” Rick said.
“Have you looked at the trade-wars we have going on? Every one of those trading partners is itching for an excuse to slam the doors on American exports. Active cases of Ebola would be just the thing.” Rick said.
“Nope, I think if it were Ebola...and I am not saying it is, just that it could be...the bureaucracy would do everything in its power to suppress the story in the hope they could contain and extinguish it.” Rick concluded.
Di snorted. “Two people can’t keep a secret. What makes you think a million government employees can?”
Rick shrugged. “Great question. How many people really need to know it is Ebola? Just tell all the people on the hot end that the meds and vaccine are for the flu and tell them to use universal precautions.”
“The list of people in-the-know might be a single lab in Atlanta and a straight chain-of-command up to the President.” Rick said. “Many of those labs are run by ex-military and they run a very tight ship.”
This was a novel concept for Di. She thought that with everybody on social media, everybody knew what everybody else was doing.
“So you think this could be Ebola and it could turn into a total shit-storm?” Di questioned.
“It could. On the other hand it might not be Ebola. Or they could throw an airtight containment ring around the outbreaks and crush the outbreak before it gets legs.” Rick admitted.
“Does Ebola kill people or just make them sick? I really don’t know anything about Ebola.” Di admitted.
“Ebola kills 80% of the people who get it.” Rick said. “It blinds and inflicts brain-damage on a significant portion of the people who survive.”
Looking for a bright side, Di suggested “Maybe in Africa. But what about the US. Don’t we have better immune systems, all those vitamins and protein and stuff?”
“Doesn’t help.” Rick said. “Ebola targets the immune system and the better your immune system the faster it takes over your body. The other thing is that Ebola that kills you by triggering a cytokine storm. Basically, that is a super-immune response that kills your blood vessels by way of collateral damage.
“Is there any good news?” Di asked, barely able to take in the enormity of Ebola.
Rick shrugged. “Some of the evolutionary biologists speculate that Ebola will become less lethal in the future. Killing your host in 14 days limits your ability, as a virus, to spread. Some biologists think that in two human generations Ebola will be just another cold virus or STD as it detunes to optimize spreading.”
“Those same biologists point to syphilis as an example of that happening.” Rick said.
Di said, “Well that isn’t going to do us any good. It isn’t likely any of us will be here forty years from now.”