Did The Hades Factor predict the SARS outbreak?
SARS: How Fiction Became Fact
by Sutirtho Patranobis, 21 April 2003
Hindustan Times c. 2003 The Hindustan Times Ltd.
“A homeless man in Boston, an army major in California and a teenage girl in Atlanta all die suddenly and painfully, each a victim of an unknown doomsday virus. For three days, a team of scientists in a US government laboratory has been frantically trying to unlock the virus’ secret…”
That’s the blurb on the back cover of the novel The Hades Factor, jointly written by Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds and published in 2000. What the introduction does not say and what is apparent from the second page of the novel is that the “doomsday” virus which wipes out a million people behaved in a manner uncannily similar to the bug that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
What is, of course, not fiction is that till Sunday, the rampant SARS virus had claimed 170 lives, infected more than 2,000, and disrupted the lives of thousands more globally. The fear that it might take epidemic proportions is fast becoming a fact.
In the book, the disease is called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). And no scientist was able to detect it in the regular tests conducted on the first casualties.
Within days of the first case appearing in the US, the ARDS virus spread to 27 countries and threatened to sneak into more.
ARDS symptoms are similar to that of SARS — a nagging cough, cold, sudden fever and breathing difficulty. And it could easily target people who had no history of respiratory problems, very much like SARS. And scientists in the novel had to conduct the polymerase chain reaction test to confirm the genetic sequencing of the virus. The same test is being conducted to home in on the SARS virus.
Towards the end, the person behind the research and the proliferation of the virus, a senior official in a pharmaceutical company, announces that his firm as the anti-ARDS serum.
That’s one nightmare scenario which hopefully isn’t true in the case of SARS.
Ludlum’s Virus: “All the illnesses began with a cold or flu for some two weeks, then abruptly escalated into ARDS, hemorrhaging and death.” — The Hades Factor, published 2000.