1.4.13

Tainted Hope

Technically, I work for a subdivision of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Every office in the country reports up to the main office in Atlanta, and based on our findings, every year they write a new set of rules of healthy conduct. Since the Pre-PTA standards of wash your hands and cover your coughs doesn't really hold true for any disease anymore, because a weakened immune system can override the precautions you take against PTA, they've been forced to re-write everything. They're no longer absurdly simplified, and there are nuances so minute as far as what you should and shouldn't do, they write a book every year. The if/then section of that book is so extensive that the manual (and correlating training program) is a college-credited course now, if you don't already work for the CDC. Every year in spring, existing employees participate in these conferences like the one we just finished. They make sure everyone is on the same page, that we're retaining the crucial information. The running joke right now is that the greatest responsibility for us is not spreading helpful information, but to refrain from spreading misinformation. They say a wrong answer can hurt more than no answer when you're dealing with PTA. The result is an organization run on fear of mistakes, fear of being out of the loop, and fear of leaking possible misinformation.

That is why, at the end of this conference, they took into trust only a few key players into confidence and revealed what had been discovered last month. I'm not saying that it should have been publicized, in fact, it's a good thing the man who found it kept his mouth shut til he could talk to his boss, because there would have been a serious fallout, had people listened, and an even more tragic fall out had he been wrong. But as far as all accounts go so far, he's right. One month's worth of research shows improvement, and now the CDC is calling in the experts and they're conducting clinical trials, as secretively as possible, of course.

No, I'm not one of the trusted elite in my business. I don't want to be, because that would require more of myself than I am willing to give to this business. I am dedicated, but I've also grown since I started this job. I love Belle like a sister, and I think I may love John, too. I don't want to give up my time with them, or relocate to another area and risk losing one or both of them. So I do my job, I do it well, and I stay off the charts as much as possible. No, I'm not one of the few who was let in on this secret, but my boyfriend is. Who knew he had any influence? I always figured he was a theoretical origins expert, but it turns out he's also well versed in the study of brain function. He's also very bad at keeping anything from me.

And so, with little prodding on my part, I came to know what's got the CDC so excited and terrified: The difference between the very few immune and the susceptible is the overabundant presence of one protein in their cerebral spinal fluid: Serum Albumin.

At first I thought John said "Albumen" and wondered how we could have missed egg whites, but he corrected me and told me he was actually referring to the protein which keeps the osmotic pressure of bodily tissue in check. In other words, it keeps out unwanted bodily fluids from certain tissues and intravascular compartments. Until now, we've found that too much or too little of this stuff can be harmful, and humans on the whole have quite enough of it to survive. However, there are just a few who live healthily with an amount previously thought harmful, and they see no ill effects. There are two reasons we didn't see this coming sooner. Firstly, it's never before been heard of that someone could have that much Serum Albumin in their systems, circulating with absolutely no effect, until now. Secondly, generally in medicine up til now, SA is not used, but rather we use saline. Saline in normal humans is much safer than SA, and much easier to come by. But we tried Saline. We had completely ruled it out. For whatever reason, SA holds against PTA where everything else in the world does not.

It's reasonable to believe that eventually the human race would have either died out or would have repopulated and evolved without ever figuring out what the difference was in their biology as opposed to their predecessors (us). Luckily for those of us living now, we can now devise a test to find out if we're really immune or not, other than just the old, 98% deadly, exposure method. Unluckily, however, is that you've got to get the SA from somewhere. And, while the bovine type has been attempted and failed, the human type is working splendidly. They've tried it on six patients at a hospital in Atlanta. All six survived. As soon as the patient got sick, they started a drip directly into their brain to help fight off the parasites, and it worked. Within a week, they were all still alive, and by the second week they were starting to regain mobility and were able to think clearly again. The proteins they got for those treatments, however, required donation. This isn't like donating plasma, because as soon as you loose some of your own, you become more susceptible to PTA. We can't synthesize it, and we can't use the generic, cow brand. It's human.

So, the reason the CDC is afraid to release this information should be pretty obvious. While old zombie horror movies are considered distasteful and crude, they do still exist, and there are still people who watch them. It's been several long years of training to teach them that the brain is not the only thing they're after, and that bites are not the only way to contract the disease, and now we have to find a way to retract the previous statement, because as it turns out, brains DO cure the disease (sort of). Not to mention the fact that we presently have no way to distribute SA in a humane way, so would-be scientists who have the technology or can steal the technology to isolate SA could and probably would go into business making, using, and selling cures that may or may not come from the people whose heads they lobbed off.

It's messy, it's frustrating, it's tainted hope, but at least it's hope.

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