Harvey’s Flu: the Unfolding of the Pandemic of 2039
First Meeting, the beginning of my dystopian compilation of Friends of my Enemy: Stories from the War hints at events that unfolded in the beginning decades of the twenty-first century. Events that changed the world. Harvey’s Flu is the first…
The official name for this pandemic is BECD variant epsilon. However it quickly became known as Harvey’s flu based on patient zero, Harvey Reynolds. Reynolds was a NVAP veterinarian researching an outbreak off BECD, bovine enteric coronavirus disease, reported in Texas for APHIS.
The cases of BECD were believed caused by the importation and smuggling of herds of cattle from isolated areas in Mexico. These livestock were immune to the disease but when driven north due to the severe drought affecting the southern regions of North America the last decade, they came into contact with herds that did not have the same immunity. The result was sudden, but sporadic outbreaks of a disease in cattle herds with symptoms of diarrhea, bloated intestines, aborted pregnancies. Symptoms were first reported in early September of 2038. Over eighty percent of cattle infected succumbed to the disease within ten days of exhibiting signs.
First reports were that the disease was isolated only to cattle with no cross over infections to other livestock or humans. This changed in late November.
Mr. Reynolds began investigating the sporadic but rapidly increasing reports of what, by then, had been determined to be a new coronavirus that affected bovines on behalf of APHIS in early November 2038. A highly qualified vet with over twenty years of experience both in the United States and abroad, he worked to isolate how infections were spreading and ways to isolate infected herds.
However Mr. Reynolds was suffering from a slight cold at the time period when he flew to Texas to begin his work. Due to his work and research with ill livestock, Reynolds had developed a mild case of H7N7 (LP), a low pathogenic variant that is one of the few strains capable of cross specie infection. Known to infect birds, pigs, seals, and wild horses, Reynolds most likely picked up the infection from swine in Michigan. It had not been known to infect bovines.
Whether the BECD jumped to Reynolds or if his H7N7 infected a bovine with BECD remains unclear. It is only known that Harvey Reynolds became the first known case of the BECD epsilon variant. Unfortunately, this knowledge came too late.
The mutation was not immediate. Mr. Reynolds worked on BECD in Texas through most of early December, not leaving until just before the holidays to attend a meeting arranged by WHO in Europe. BECD had begun to die down in cattle herds and the disease was believed to be contained when Reynolds left to update WHO on what he had learned of the disease. He was, at that time, infected by the epsilon variant.
Potentially due to being the initial host and recovering from H7N7 which may have offered Reynolds some initial immunity or because the mutation was developing within him, Reynolds’ symptoms were the slowest developing of all reported cases occurring after him and made him a super spreader. He infected twenty-three people traveling between Texas and Geneva, including those infected at the conference. The addition of the H7N7 genome allowed the more difficult spreading BECD to be transmitted aerially through coughing and sneezing. With the cold temperatures, the virus remained viable on surfaces for over eight hours.
Reynolds was on the phone with an associate at WHO when he collapsed in his hotel room on December 22. He was not quarantined for three days, infecting three nurses and a member of the hotel staff before it was realized that he was ill with a highly virulent and new strain of BECD. Reynolds died on January 1, 2039.
As the infection spread across both Europe and the United States with cases emerging quickly from other travel center hubs due to infections transmitted while Reynolds traveled, it was not thought to check the status of BECD in the initial bovine herds in Texas.
Reports of a changed in the original BECD infection of cattle changed in early January with a higher mortality rate. Dairy workers were quickly infected with the same epsilon strain Reynolds carried, passing the infection on to more people. By the time animals were tested, the epsilon strain of BECD was found in swine, birds, and cattle as far north as Nebraska and as far east as Tennessee. By January 12, WHO declared BECD epsilon strain a worldwide pandemic.
To see how we survived go here.