Nina In New York: Ancient Virus Back From Dead, Probably More Where That Came From
A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
Exciting news, everyone: the plot of Encino Man is finally coming true.
Like all remakes, there have been a few tweaks. Instead of an implausibly handsome caveman (in the form of a young Brendan Fraser) unfreezing and reanimating and wreaking all sorts of hilarious havoc, the thing that’s coming back to life is a dormant, 30,000 year old “giant virus” which, when thawed, turns out to be still infectious.
BBC News reports that the virus was found buried deep down in the icy tundra of Siberia, and is large enough to see under a microscope, which is evidently very big indeed. The biggest ever found, it seems. This monster dinovirus, as I have just now decided to term it, only infects and kills amoebas, which are single-celled organisms. Seeing as humans have, like, a lot more cells than that, we’re safe. But scientists are now worried about what else may be lurking beneath that frozen surface.
No, not young Brendan Fraser. I’m really sorry I brought that up.
If the ice continues to thin (global warming, ahem), and people go a-drilling for the region’s untapped natural resources, they could accidentally rustle up a whole army of freaky mammoth zombie pathogens. All sorts of old diseases could threaten us once more. Sabertoothitis and pterodactyl flu! The black plague and the consumption and the clap and the vapors! Dropsy and scurvy and gout and scabies and that thing that happens in Victorian novels where a woman can die of a broken heart or from taking a long walk in the rain. Even smallpox could come back. Amazingly, that last one is real.
Naturally, to convince people not to go digging around the disease graveyard, waking the dead, scientists will take it upon themselves to go digging around the disease graveyard so that they might wake the dead. It’s for the greater good, however, because they plan to find out what else is lurking below and whether it, too, can reanimate after millennia spent on ice. It’s bad enough formerly defunct illnesses are making a comeback, like measles and rubella and pertussis. Some kids in California recently came down with a mysterious, polio-like affliction. Now we might have to worry about smallpox again? I’m no doctor, but I think we’re moving in the wrong direction.
This feels like the momentarily peaceful set-up scene that segues into an apocalyptic movie about behemoth White Walker viruses which come back to life and extinguish the human race all except for one guy—I don’t know, maybe Ben Affleck or Denzel Washington—who is miraculously immune and must roam the Earth in search of others like him so that they might isolate his genes and invent a cure. Luckily, he’s also a scientist, otherwise none of this would work at all. Anyway, good luck to you, scientists! I’ll be in my spaceship.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!