Monday, September 03, 2007

Online Novel : What Happens When A Bird Flu Pandemic Hits Sydney

So what happens to a city when an extremely deadly bird flu pandemic hits Sydney, Australia?

This is a subject I'm now exploring in an online serialized novel called 'ED Day'.

The story is told in the form of a near daily journal by one of a few hundred survivorsl, and details how these survivors find themselves 'trapped' in the centre of Sydney, after the pandemic wipes out millions of people.

It's a massive exaggeration of even the very worst case scenarios for death tolls from a bird flu pandemic, but it's fiction, and to tell the story I want to tell I needed to wipe out most of Sydney's human population. Unfortunately.

I started writing this novel in late 2006 and posted a few chapters onto a forum at MySpace, inviting readers to criticize and discuss what they were reading. The reaction was mostly positive, but as a writer I found the experience unique and remarkable.

Work got in the way of doing more with the novel, but I've decided to impose a running deadline on getting the novel written by publishing three or four chapters a week, basically as they're written, first draft, no rewrites. There's no full outline of the novel, and I have at best a vague idea of where I want this story to go. But it's already taking on a life of its own.

On Tuesday, the novel will go into the history of how the bird flu virus began to spread human to human, how it reached Sydney, and what happened during the three 'waves' of the pandemic.

I hope all my regular readers here will come and have a look at the novel and follow it as its published online.

I would also hope that you feel free to comment on what you read, and don't hold back pointing out factual errors about H5N1 or discussing the way the pandemic unfolds in the novel.

Obviously, as the novel is fiction, not everything will be based on known scientific fact, but I'm planning to explore how World Health Organisation and UN guidelines for dealing with a pandemic outbreak play out for the people of Sydney.

Okay, that's my pitch.

The main site is here :

ED Day

But you can go here to read the first chapter :

Chapter One : The Silence In The City

Regular postings of news to the Bird Flu Blog will continue at their usual rate of frequent to infrequent.


GoodToBeWithYou said...

Thoroughly looking forward to reading your outbreak scenario.

Back in the real world, I note Peter Beattie drew on the state's tamiflu reserves for this season's regular, but unusually severe, influenza outbreak.

When PB went to Tony Abbott for more tamiflu, abbott said No way, we're keeping it for the pandemic.

Meanwhile, an H5N1 cluster was forming in that favourite Oz holiday destination, Bali.

The vanilla flu this year was so severe that crowds stayed away from the Ekka, our Easter show. The health department was doing a PR exercise, handing out swabs, people were wearing masks.
But when the organisation running the show made a noise about taking$$$ being way down, rather than being a prudent Health department with infection minimisation as it's mission, they encouraged people to go to the show crowds, as long as they didn't actually have the flu.
No concern about any pre-symptomatic infectious period.
A very lax sort of risk minimisation if you ask me, and a pointer to how it might break out.

Quarantine measures don't seem to be working too well for the gee-gees either.

Darryl Mason said...

That's a remarkable report GoodToBeWithYou. Thanks. The media certainly didn't report that information about the Easter Show in any noticeable way. And yes, the 'vanilla flu' was particularly bad. Between direct deaths related to Influenza A and what they called deaths due to complications arising from Influenza A, the death toll was more than 400, over six to eight weeks.

The horse flu epidemic is very strange and shows just how financially destructive flu epidemics can be.

GoodToBeWithYou said...

It's not called the Easter show here, i used that term cos you are prob from Syderney, and that's what I thought youse called it when all the bushies and the cows and horses and side show alley and sample bags come to town. Here in Brisso its the Ekka, short for Exhibition and it's in August, just passed. Surprise surprise there's always a flu incidence spike in August. In fact they are saying they mighyt shift the hallowed Royal National Association Exhibition to some other time, less infectious.
The equine epideimic also shows how ineffective protection protocols can be, human error and all that. 'Frintance, this March, @ the super high CSIRO biosecurity lab in Geelong:
"Three scientists at an animal health laboratory were exposed to the virus last Monday while they were working on infected ducks. Laboratory director Dr Martyn Jeggo says an air filter inside a protective suit was not activated, exposing the three to the virus"
There has been a fatality at that lab before when a veteran scientist got locked in an airtight fridge or something with a nitrogen leak i think it was.
Truth is a lot like fiction, just with cheesier plot devices.