Following on from part 1, here are the final steps to creating your disease or illness.
6. Mode of transmission (for infections)
If you are writing a medical thriller about a deadly new contagion, then you will need to consider how the disease is to be spread.
There are several modes of transmission of infectious diseases.
This is the mode of spread of the common cold. The virus is spread via coughing and sneezing.
Blood and Bodily Fluids (inc sexually transmitted).
Body fluids include saliva, mucus, vomit, faeces, sweat, tears, breast milk, urine, and semen.
In order to contract the disease, the contaminated fluids must be in contact with broken skin ie. wound or cut, or a mucous membrane such as the eye, mouth or inside of the nose.
The most obvious and topical example is Ebola. Other examples include HIV, hepatitis B&C and rabies.
This category also includes the delightful faeco-oral route of transmission, by which the gastroenteritides are spread.
Remember to wash your hands, use a face mask, wear a condom, etc.
Some infectious agents are hardy and can survive for some time outside the host. If deposited onto and object or surface, these can be transferred to whomsoever touches said object.
Not the same as droplet transmission, some infective agents can spread through the air in small droplets or dusts, making them highly contagious.
Examples are measles, smallpox, chicken pox.
The infection can be from a contaminated source, such as a food source, for example salmonella, Listeria.
This refers to spread of a disease via another animal or insect, which acts as a host to transmit the infection, but without succumbing itself. Malaria (via mosquitoes), bubonic plague (via fleas) and Lyme disease (via tick bites) are good examples of this.
What is the outlook for your victims? A few days in bed with a runny nose, or a slow and agonising death from rectal bleeding?
What is the mortality rate? Are the survivors left with chronic halitosis and ugliness?
Conventional treatment can include medication administered through any orifice, into a vein or artery, or even directly into the cerebrospinal fluid.
Other treatment options may include radiotherapy, or a surgical procedure.
Less conventional options might include exorcism or several hours of ritual interpretive dance.
Perhaps there is no specific treatment; perhaps supportive treatment eg fluids, ventilation, prostatic massage etc while you wait and hope.
Prevention is better than cure; could your hero knock up a vaccine or antidote before time runs out, or are we all DOOMED…..
Like a pet or favourite chainsaw, every disease needs a name, and there are several options available.
Names like measles, mumps and scurvy all date from way back when.
One of the following diseases is genuine… velmish, scrat, orf, mungle, feckle.
I can’t remember which.
Sometimes a disease does exactly what it says on the tin, eg elephantiasis, sleeping sickness, burning mouth syndrome.
Here’s an example from the case files of Urban-Smith;
A tear formed at the corner of the young man’s eye. “As a medical man, you will be familiar with a condition known as stripper’s heel.” I nodded. “Years of wearing clear stilettos had taken a dreadful toll on my mother’s arches. There were some days, when she could barely dance the pole unless heavily medicated with strong opioids. Anyhow, one evening she was returning home from a photo-shoot involving several young gentlemen members of the Putney Athletics Society, when her ankles failed her, causing her to topple from the kerb and into the path of the number sixteen to Chingford.”
Extract from Smoked Havoc.
Most medical terminology is derived from latin or greek, for example; tyrotoxicosis, diabetes mellitus, myasthenia gravis.
Imagine the honour of having a disease named after you. Imagine your family’s pride if your legacy was to be forever associated with an illness, disorder, or better still, a syndrome.
Well known examples include, Down’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease and Wurlitzer’s organ.
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), CREST (calcinosis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, (o)esophageal dysmotility, sclerodactyly, telangiectasia).
And some of mine; ARS (Adipose retention syndrome), BaNG (bacterial necrotising gangrenitis), GOBS (gastro oesophageal bullsquat syndrome).
Why not give your disease some back story? Allow your readers to empathise with it, for example;
ARS was first described by Lionel Batface in 1732, after an outbreak of the disease in Manchester killed 36 dock workers. The source of the infection was traced to a boatload of bananas that had arrived from Portugal the previous week.
So there you have it, 10 steps to producing your very own designer malady. What could be more Christmassy?