Ron Seybold's Viral Times

A story to inject hearts with insight, hope and health

Archive for the ‘Media reporting’ Category

How to Survive the Next Global Pandemic

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In the world of Viral Times, not so far into the future, a global pandemic has changed us all. A virus triggers The New Flu and it evolves to H.I.V.E-5. AIDS Ultra follows. The government rounds up the infected and locks them into Health Camps, quarantined for secret drug testing. It’s only a few years into our future, those viral times. But in our today, Gizmodo is looking at how to survive such a crisis.

Our society is setting itself up for a global-scale disaster. Diseases, particularly those of tropical origin, are spreading faster than ever before, owing to more long-distance travel, urbanization, lack of sanitation, and ineffective mosquito control—not to mention global warming and the spread of tropical diseases outside of traditional equatorial confines. Accordingly, Oxford’s Global Priorities Project has listed a possible future pandemic as one of the worst catastrophic threats currently facing humanity.

And viruses are right at the top of the list of threats in the article. We have no way of defending ourselves with drugs of today. The advice on survival begins with storing away fresh water, and the writer adds, “You should also get the latest seasonal vaccine. It may not protect you against the mutated strain, but then again, it just might.”

Written by Ron Seybold

April 9, 2017 at 1:23 am

Readying for a Health Camp Break-In

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By Dayton Winstead

Austin, November 29, 2021

While the rains fall, we fall back in retreat from disease.

I type those words into my ScribePad and wipe sweat off my brow. I’m sweltering in my apartment while my Condo Cooler is forced to idle. I’m not supposed to be home now, a journalist writing in his private journal while the sun sets on a Texas hot with climate and viruses. Government clocks cycle our energy to restrain the temperature. But in these times, nothing we’ve tried controls the viruses.

They fall on us from the skies in rainstorms and leap between us in casual touch. These times have caused love to fail. A half-century ago people had sex–dad would say make love in one of his editorials–with no fears if they used simple precaution. Even when I grew up, sexual disease needed blood to cross between bodies. But HIVE-5 is more aggressive than its viral ancestors. It enters the body while you battle the New Flu, a disease with an airborne range of 10 feet that’s soared into a 19-month pandemic. Nobody gets close now without designer masks, antiviral clothes, viro-screen gel. In the ultimate of social distancing, the lucky ones can suit up and go virtual for sex. Secure Sex, they call it, now breeding faster than mosquitos in a holding pond.

I write to disinfect myself from my mission tomorrow and so I leave behind this record.

First the Flu, then HIV, and at the last, AIDS Ultra. Can love survive the terrors of touch? Nobody has an answer yet, although the new Simulation Suits mimic touch to make sex safe again. General Connectrics owns the field of haptics, gamingtouch technology grown up to serve sex.

Real sex now means death, not joy or peace or rest, or even work. Germs work to kill off sex with an AIDS any man or woman can catch. Small bugs bust up large towns and break down long lives. Have sex and die, or don’t and feel your heart grow cold.

I can’t push that kind of writing past my editor Roni at Viral Times, my latest media outlet. I skip work tonight to write this testimony. Tomorrow I have to risk everything on a mission I can’t dodge, to try to break into the Government Health Camp outside Waco. The camps pen up the infected. Healthland Security says the detentions ensure national security. I report these official lies because they need light to wither.

To crack into that Camp I’ll be on the move in tomorrow’s wan light, a dim path compared to the quartz lights of show business video stages. My celebrity stories at SatNews were easier. Entertainment people liked to talk to me about themselves, their projects. Then my wife Melissa swept into my life and challenged my charm. “Do more good,” she said. A fat lot of good her legal doings have brought our dreams. She started fighting for the rights of the sick. The feds fought back by locking her up in the Health Camp where she went yesterday to depose Ultra victims.

I wipe sweat off my forehead and onto the table. We missed that wetness, the smell of us, the one night we played with prototype Suits. They record sex, too, but I don’t have the stomach yet to replay that episode into a Suit. I won’t need the replay if I can get her out, somehow.

SimSuits surfaced when HIV hit the rich. You can use them now if you know the right people. The right people are fucking each other now in SimSuits, safe from disease and stimulating each other across their bodies. Outside the suits, people are dying. Inside, freedom, and maybe addiction.

People cocoon indoors, order basic needs, receive their work online and deliver it. A few, the lucky, open a package in a SafeFoyer at their front door from General Connectrics. The Suit connects them so they can touch each others’ bodies. You don’t risk being corralled into a Camp with Ultra if you can have sex in a Suit.

Melissa wants to stop the detentions, even empty the camps. She always wants something for somebody else. We could’ve had it easier, if she didn’t always want to do the hard thing. “Hard is what makes it good,” she told me. “If it were easy, everybody would do it.”

Ultra crams sex into the back alley of the Suits. After just nine months, they’re already leading a revival of the screw-anything ’70s. Low-cost SimSuits, in viral times, to hook up anonymously–well, there will be nothing to stop a leap into what preachers call the wanton wasteland.

The Evangelical Party rails against “hell-bearing acts of filth in a populace linking up in full rut.” But words can’t stop sex, not even with the fear of God.  What difference can sermons make? Not even, “God has a plan to wipe out this state of lust — to restore the blessed order of man and woman rejoicing in safe, married relations.”

I feel my head grow wet, but not with sweat.  The rain patters against my skylight, where a small crease admits drops. I duck out of the way and disinfect with viro-screen wipe, then spray down the table. I throw up a sealer blob against the skylight to patch the hole. The viruses can travel in the rain, drops of nature nobody can be sure are safe. I gotta rescue Melissa from the viruses raining through that death camp. I want to talk God into saving her.

I do more than pray for luck to extract Melissa. Milo Sensi down in the Times info-digger bullpens helped me snare the Camp’s GPS maps, then used his probability algorithms to trace her trail inside since she entered. I check the seals on my protective SafeCloak, then stretch to ready my muscles, both slow-twitch and fast, the strength of a high school gymnast and speed of a cyclist. All that strength and desperation might not be enough to rescue my lover. I can at least die trying to save our dreams.

Written by Ron Seybold

April 6, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Government funds hurry-up disease fighters

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The world is so far behind on its supply of anti-bacterial drugs that the US government is paying a major pharma to create and test formulas more quickly. This government aid to pharmaceutical giants like GlaxoSmithKline rolls into full tilt in Viral Times, just some five years from now.

But this year, pressure has mounted for accelerated creation of drugs to fight superbugs — things like MRSA and worse, for which there appears to be no protection. Going to the hospital is a serious decision itself about maintaining health.

From the New York Times:

Government officials, drug companies and medical experts, faced with outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” are pushing to speed up the approval of new antibiotics, a move that is raising safety concerns among some critics.

The need for new antibiotics is so urgent, supporters of an overhaul say, that lengthy studies involving hundreds or thousands of patients should be waived in favor of directly testing such drugs in very sick patients. Influential lawmakers have said they are prepared to support legislation that allows for faster testing.

The Health and Human Services Department last month announced an agreement under which it will pay $40 million to a major drug maker, GlaxoSmithKline, to help it develop medications to combat antibiotic resistance and biological agents that terrorists might use. Under the plan, the federal government could give the drug company as much as $200 million over the next five years.

“We are facing a huge crisis worldwide not having an antibiotics pipeline,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration. “It is bad now, and the infectious disease docs are frantic. But what is worse is the thought of where we will be five to 10 years from now.”

If you play out this trend, two aspects emerge. First, the defense of our populace from disease will make the military defense budgets look small. While you’re unlikely to be attacked by a rogue cell of terrorists, catching a superbug is a genuine possibility. Uncounted billions will be tossed at this threat.

Second, this is only drug defense against bacterial infection we’re seeing in the Times story. Viruses are much more adaptive and evasive. We have fewer successful anti-virals than anti-bacterials. It’s reasonable to imagine that pharmacos, like PharmaCorp in Viral Times, can grow larger than a defense contractor like McDonnell Douglas.

Written by Ron Seybold

July 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm

West Nile Virus on the rise in Texas

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In my home here in Austin, we’re hearing reports about a rising number of infections from the West Nile Virus. The mosquito population here never carried this disease, at least not until this year. Now there’s been seven reported infections in the Austin area, and at least one death statewide. A few people in my family are scared.

What’s notable is that the warnings and reports include the word epidemic. One doctor said he’d never seen an epidemic like this in Texas. He’s relying on a definition of the word that people who’ve seen Contagion may not understand — but it’s not the right term. An epidemic is a series of infections which are high in number across a geographic area. The number of infections, in total, doesn’t create an epidemic. You need a concentrated geographic area.

He may have been using comparative thinking, but seven infections among a Texas population of more than 15 million — anybody who gets a mosquito bite could be infected — well, that’s not a high number. Not high enough for an epidemic. Under one definition, an epidemic has to spread quickly, too. An epidemic is in a concentrated geographic area. We’re hearing our reports about Travis County. But that’s only seven reports.

Our world endured an H1N1 pandemic over the past two years. That’s an infection across vast geographic areas, though not necessarily high in overall numbers. Despite that official UN health organization’s designation, the 2010-11 infections didn’t change the world’s physical contact between persons, or reshape laws about sanitation and disinfection. Or spark a tremendous business sector devoted to protection. That’s the stuff of Viral Times — although the governments of my novel are not responding evenly, or with enough resources.

Written by Ron Seybold

August 8, 2012 at 8:59 am

Pharma titan Pfizer adds natural immunity product

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Pfizer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical enterprises, has bought the makers of Emergen-C. The vitamin C supplement is filling out the Pfizer consumer product portfolio, according to my friend Tracy Staton, who reports for FiercePharma.

Pfizer is snapping up the company that makes Emergen-C, those ubiquitous vitamin C packets that sell for some $10 a box. The world’s biggest drugmaker will add California-based Alacer to its consumer health operations, acquired along with Wyeth in 2009. “Emergen-C products add to and greatly complement our market-leading dietary supplement portfolio,” Pfizer Consumer Healthcare President Paul Sturman said in a statement. Alacer makes about 500 million Emergen-C packets a year, Pfizer said. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Viral Times unfolds its story in a near-future where pharmas like Pfizer are allied with health insurance providers to create the PharmAlliance. This latest news shows Pfizer is expanding its business to include products like the 30-cent-a-day Emergen-C which don’t require medical insurance coverage, or a prescription, and so will never fall out of high-profit patent drug status. Patent drugs can have a very finite lifespan of profitability, while viruses have an infinite lifespan because they evolve as needed. The disease will usually outlast the drugs, if a virus is at work.

For example, Pfizer is struggling to maintain its client base for Lipitor this year, extending its own “co-pay” program to keep the brand-name version cheaper than the single generic version. Tracy reported in a separate article that WellPoint, a very large healthcare insurer, is now planning to stop covering Pfizer’s brand-name cholesterol drug April 1, favoring its generic rivals instead.

Tracy was an early workshopping reader of Viral Times before she took her MFA in writing from Texas State. She reports on pharmas for the Fierce group, as well as works as an associate editor for American Way magazine.

Written by Ron Seybold

February 28, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Brain mapping gives us a path to understanding love

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A new book from Judith Horstman on how brain activity affects love includes a message about how much fMRI scans have taught us about the neuron dances that our minds do when we’re in love. From an article and interview with Horstman in the Marin Independent Journal:

We know more about the brain in love than ever before, thanks to technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that maps brain activity in real time. And it’s shed light on how taking the Pill might affect the men that a woman’s attracted to (which could possibly be the reason behind some divorces); how love can be addictive (especially for women); how meditation might make you a better lover (who wouldn’t want to be?); and how taking acetaminophen just might relieve some of the often devastating pain of being jilted.

Horstman’s book “The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex and the Brain: The Neuroscience of How, When, Why, and Who We Love” examines how our biggest sex organ builds the emotion we all need. In Viral Times, Jenny Nation wins a Nobel Prize for her research into mapping brain activity in 2017. The discoveries lead her to develop a new drug that will impart love to all who take it — a most holy kind of love.

 

Written by Ron Seybold

February 7, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Posted in Media reporting, Viral Times: Novel

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Enough of the vaccine, already

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Ah, the heady drama of last fall. H1N1 was a steady source of worry, creating the Worried Well and sparking a fevered drive to stock up on vaccine. In October CBS interviewed Dr. Troyen Brennan, the Chief Medical Officer of CVS, the drug store chain.

Asked if there will be enough H1N1 vaccine to go around, Brennan said, “We do believe there will be enough. The government’s been very careful in terms of the amount of H1N1 it’s ordered and that’s coming online right now.”

And so millions of Americans queued up for a Swine Flu shot, some at CVS, along with a seasonal flu shot. Boy, was there ever enough of the H1N1 vaccine. Too much for Europe, where some claim that Swine Flu was a fake epidemic. From NPR, “Governments all across Europe are canceling orders of swine flu vaccine as frantically as they were clamoring for it a few month ago.” Alas, we’re more determined to be protected in the US.

The government is thinking about how much more swine flu vaccine to order up and pay for. But Health and Human Services spokesman Bill Hall says any decision to scale back vaccine orders is “weeks away.” Let’s take stock. Last spring the US government signed contracts for $1.5 billion worth of vaccine against the novel H1N1 virus–251 million doses. So far, 55 percent of that amount has been shipped, and something like 60 million Americans have been vaccinated. That leaves 45 percent of the contracted-for vaccine yet to be delivered. That’s 115 million doses, worth about $675 million.

Okay, it’s under a billion dollars, so it won’t even show up in the US budget.

But the cost of stress-induced concern about health, missed work time to vaccinate, isolation of the populace that didn’t want to risk being in this epidemic: much greater. There’s a payoff for coverage as breathless and shallow as the CBS Early Show stuff, thank goodness. We’re being innoculated from the sudden panic of virus outbreaks. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ron Seybold

January 14, 2010 at 5:31 pm