A mystery illness is ripping through New Zealand, baffling experts and sending the “shaky isles” into a state of panic.
According to the New Zealand Ministry of Health, the outbreak is a more virulent form of the H1N1 swine flu. But other reports are linking it with typhus, Ebola and the pneumonic plague; meanwhile, some medical experts in Australia are suggesting the disease originated in livestock – specifically sheep – and “somehow” made it to man.
But regardless of its foundation, an epidemic is manifesting itself in New Zealand and quickly spreading its ill-effects across the entire nation.
The Ministry of Health has tabled a list of symptoms and suggestions to help practitioners diagnose patients in early stages of the illness. However, the department is yet to mention any report of a credible vaccine, which is fuelling conspiracy theories and resulting in accusations leveled at the embattled New Zealand government’s primary health agent.
According to the department, some of the common signs and symptoms include:
- Severe chills and drop in body temperature. People have been seen out in droves buying Dan Carter jerseys, World Cup-themed scarves and beanies – anything that will keep their core temperatures high. They are also gathering in massive crowds in what the department has marked as a desperate attempt to share body heat. The department has advised that black clothing is most effective when trying to regulate body temperature; however, retailers have so far refused to bow to government pressure, hiking up All Black merchandise some 100% since July.
- Slurred speech. Those exposed show early signs of speech deficit, with some muttering loud unrecognizable gibberish while others have been heard chanting and crooning as they move through the affected zones. Interestingly, some experts have downplayed this side-effect as “nothing unusual compared to your average South Islander.”
- Blurred Vision. Affected eyesight is an early sign of infection. It is also believed that in advanced stages an infected person will suffer the loss of vision on one side, with the result being what the department has termed “one-eyed vision.” This symptom is, unfortunately, irreversible.
- Unquenchable thirst. Beer suppliers have been unable to keep up with demand and there are fears that this could escalate what is an already unmanageable situation. It is believed that in an attempt to slow consumption, suppliers are now charging large crowds with outrageous prices for beer and bottled water. The price hike appears to have had little effect so far as the hordes continue to grow in size and volatility.
- Heightened Emotion. One bizarre symptom of the illness appears to be brain inflammation, which results in associated mood swings and heightened emotion. The department has warned civilians to be on the look-out for anyone who appears overexcited – particularly euphoric – or exceptionally melancholy. Some authorities have predicted there will be packs of grown men crying in the streets within weeks. The New Zealand police have so far refused to confirm one report of a brain explosion.
- Irrational behaviour. Some observers have given eyewitness accounts of “Zombie-like” behaviour; medics have brushed the “undead” suggestion but have said that those hit hardest by the illness are stomping around awkwardly, screaming loudly, gesticulating wildly, slapping their thighs, rolling their eyes and sticking out their tongues. One particularly worrying development is the slit-throat gesture that often accommodates this performance.
Meanwhile, witnesses have reported several small groups of infected persons gathering around large plasma televisions. It is not confirmed yet whether this is a desperate bid for warmth or somehow linked to radiation from the screens. ThePublicApology understands that 19 specialist teams have so far booked flights to Auckland – including a Japanese team – fueling speculation of a link to radiation.
Many New Zealanders are pinning their hopes of survival on an outspoken Frenchman who they believe has evidence of a similar outbreak occurring in France in 2007. According to Jean Luc-Apremont, all the entire New Zealand populace needs to do is survive 44 consecutive days of the infection before it will vanish without a trace – before returning four years later with a vengeance.
“Once the infection wears off New Zealanders will be able to go back to their normal way of life, which, funnily enough, bears an uncanny similarity to the symptoms of the disease,” he mused.
The New Zealand Government has pledged to find an antidote by mid 2012 to coincide with the first Bledisloe cup match of next year, with health officials set to administer bulk immunisations to spectators at rugby stadiums.
By Luke Meredith