Superflu (H5N1 and BSE/H2N3)

Superflu is a generic term to describe two strains of lethal influenza viruses that ravaged the human population across the globe in the late 2080s and early 2090s.



The original strain of the superflu, identified as H5N1 (an avian flu, also called type 1) first appeared mid-summer of 2088 with disastrous consequences for the human race. The disease was highly contagious but it took a miminum of 8 days for carriers to show any sign of infection. This allowed the infected to pass the virus onto others without knowing. This first strain typically caused death within a week, though a minority of the inflicted managed to fight off the disease after weeks of struggle. Conservative estimates suggest the global population dropped by 50%; more aggressive estimates put it as high as 70%.

The second highly contagious virus, known at type 2, came on the heels of the first, while the world was still reeling in shock. The second strain showed attributes of both bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as mad cow disease) as well as exhibiting traits of swine flu (H2N3). As with the first strain, the second strain was highly unusual in that those who contracted the disease did not present symptoms for almost a week, and only a small percentage of people who were naturally immune to the first strain were likewise immune to the second. The second strain did not receive the same level of scientific scrutiny as the original because the world was struggling to cope with the massive death toll coupled with a series of devestating terrorist attacks.

Conspiracy theory

Before the global communication network collapsed, several prominent theorists and scientists claimed that both strains of the disease had been engineered by humans, perhaps in a high-level sub-lab meant to contain the disease in case of a leak. The fact the disease could be present in the human body with no symptoms did not seem natural, and to have a second similar, yet difficult-to-classify, disease strike a weakened population seemed like too much of a coincidence.

While officials from the federal government publicly claimed that the string of terrorist attacks were the desperate acts of individuals not acting in concert, the precision of the attacks that effectively severed the nation's communication backbone did not seem random but rather heavily coordinated. Before the airwaves went black in late 2088 Dr. Morgan Dipsenda, clearly suffering from type 2 superflu herself, addressed the nation on television predicting that the time-release nature of the diseases would likely defeat the security measures put in place by the government.

None of these claims could be confirmed or denied, though many survivors of the superflu feel it was some military experiment gone horribly wrong.

Disease details

Symptoms for type 1 superflu presented between 8 and 12 days after exposure to the disease. The first symptoms a person suffered were a dry throat, constant thirst, and fatigue. A day later, people would experience a high fever, and itchy red blotches appeared and grew into weeping sores covered by a flimsy, thin layer of skin. Scratching and agitation would burst the sore and it could be difficult to stop the bleeding. By the third or fourth day, sufferers would no longer be able to hold down solid food, and then water soon after that. Most individuals died within one week of first showing symptoms, though a very small percentage managed to survive the ordeal, though terribly weakened.

Type 2 superflu also took a week for symptoms to show, which closely resembed a traditional flu including: fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting. Unlike type 1, no sores appeared on the body and symptoms abated with conservative treatment of rest and fluids. After two to three weeks though, an infected person suffered a major relapse accompanied by confusion, behavioral changes, and problems with memory, coordination, and sight. Sufferers complained of debilitating headaches, incessant thirst, and a ravenous hunger. The infected were prone to violent outbursts of temper, and many were afflicted with something akin to pyromania, where watching flame provided a sense of relief. Unfortunately for most, the disease worked slowly and people could suffer for up tp five years before the disease claimed their life.


The superflu halted the steady march of civilization and helped destroy much of what had come before it. Thousands of people who already felt helpless and betrayed by their governments were terrified by the disease and, believing that their governments once again did not respond quickly enough to the catastrophe, lashed out by rioting, looting, and burning down businesses and homes. After the threat of type 1 superflu passed, type 2 swept through the survivor's ranks with equal speed and helped turn people against each other, first because they feared they might contract the new disease, and then because they saw others as competition for the limited resourced that remained.

The superflu also overtaxed national security forces, which were blindsided by a series of terrorist attacks that crippled the communication infrastructure across the nation and the globe. The proliferation of cheap weapons and ample ammunition created war zones out of urban areas, especially when combined with the scarcity of goods and the proclivity for violence and arson among type 2 superflu sufferers.


The Rivertown Compendium draws from the much larger Rivertown Chronicles, a wide assortment of personal narratives and catalog entries of people, places, and things.