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Writer Has a Medical question(s)?

  1. Dec 24, 2009 #1
    Physics Forum,

    I am a writer currently working on a novel and I simply need your opinion in a matter. As a writer one of my jobs is to do research on a subject or matter I am writing about and instead of bother doctors where they work or when they are on their way home I decided to try and find a medical forum. So I hope you will answer my questions and take the time to read this post in full.

    I am writing a fictional novel where a virus has infected man kind. It starts in the US and spreads world wide. In my novel it is called Necrosis Plague and causes the following symptoms: hallucinative, violent behavior, blindness, necrosis of the epidermis or internal tissue, and swelling of the brain. NP can be spread by: air born (lives only 30 sec), sexually, and blood (e.g. sharing needles or open wounds). A cure is never found, but they do find a way to prevent people from getting NP. Now to a few medical questions:

    1) How long would a person survive well necrosis is happening on the epidermis?
    2) How long would a person live if their brain was swelling?

    Your opinion question:

    1) A disease with the parameters I have set forth how long do you think it would take to spread world wide and how many people could fall victim to it?

    Thanks for your time and consideration,

    Hebi Kumo
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 24, 2009 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Not being a doc I can only speculate - but I doubt these questions can be answered in a straight manner. I mean - it all depends on how fast problems develop. There are known cases of people who died after drinking too much water in too short time - and swelling of the brain was given as the reason, as far as I remember it was something like an hour between drinking and dying. But if the process of swelling is slow, first symptoms can be spotted (headache, behavior?) and it may take few days before death - which means there is a time to administer some antiswelling medicine (the simplest ones being just diuretic, to lower amount of water).
  4. Dec 24, 2009 #3
    First off this sounds like a very disgusting and unfortunate disease for humans to encounter :smile:.

    1) There are plenty of causes of epidermal necrosis. There are diseases which specifically cause it to occur but another cause related to a possible disease would be reduced blood supply. I believe that epidermis necrosis is not a cause of death but the fungus and bacterial growth that occurs can lead to something called systemic inflammatory response syndrome. What this is is your entire body going into an inflammatory state in response to the possible infection. Since the person has also been through epidermal necrosis there is a special term for SIRS I believe it is Sepsis, I might be wrong however so you may want to double check that.

    So this is where we find out how fast the person will be able to live: Since they have Sepsis AND a continued infection this puts them at great risk for something called septic shock. I would expect that upwards of 80% people would be dead within the first month. I would expect 0% of people to live for longer than 6 months.

    2)Brain swelling convers a vast amount of symptoms and conditions so this is a much tougher question. An infection of the central nervous system though would cause brain swelling such as meningitis... but there are a vast majority of other conditions that can cause swelling of the brain. Brain swelling however does not mean death most people with mild injury to the brain will make a full recovery with hardly any side effects. Whereas people with severe brain injury may die, depending on severity and their personal condition, they may fall into a coma or they maybe recover but they will have very noticable side effects.

    Bacterial meningitis has a 100% fatality rate and is quite quick. However this isn't directly swelling of the brain and the swelling is due to intercranial pressures :smile:

    A quite rare condition is known as Brown-Symmers disease
    http://books.google.ca/books?id=FbS...wBg#v=onepage&q=Brown-Symmers disease&f=false

    There are some other disease that you can live with an enlarged brain for up to 3 years.

    I would expect the disease to cause swelling at a medium pace so I would expect that 99% of people would be dead within the first week and probably no one living past a month... this is of course all dependant on the speed of enlargment.

    Your opinion question is more difficult... I assume this is taking place in a modern age correct? We have a pretty effective system at getting warnings immediately out when an outbreak such as this occurs and is diagnosed. The speed at which it spreads around the world depends on many, many factors for instance: Where did it originate from? How easily is it contracted? Since it's airborne weather factors play a role as well.
  5. Dec 24, 2009 #4
    Yes it takes place in modern time (i.e. Present Day); at least the release of the disease.
  6. Dec 24, 2009 #5
    My sister had sepsis, it isn't always a deadly disease, it merely refers to when an infection has spread throughout the body. If you are serious about research for your book then you understand that research can take years, which means that you'd have time to audit a couple medical courses at a community college or something, which is basically what you have to do if you want people to take you seriously, otherwise it will be clear that you don't know what you're talking about to a lot of people, ya know?
  7. Dec 24, 2009 #6
    Sepsis with the continued risk of high levels of infection such as would result from epidermal necrosis resulting in septic shock will result in 60% of people dying within 1 month under controlled conditions (not a rapid outbreak of infections). Regularly 40% of people with just sepsis will die within 30 days. People can die up to 6 months after sepsis and septic shock. In the conditions outlined by the op (epidermal necrosis) as part of an outbreak I have no doubt in my mind that it will be 100% fatal within a few months.

    As well Sepsis is more than just a infection throughout your body. It is an infection throughout your body that causes SIRS which I spoke of earlier which is an inflammatory syndrome throughout the entire body. People who have epidermal necrosis mostly die from this condition because of increased risk of infection from reduced protection of the body. This is treatable but again, this is an outbreak we are talking about not a random rare occurance.
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