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Pathogen Threat Contest Winning Submissions

Thank you to everyone who submitted a story to our Pathogen Threat Writing Contest. We received 350 submissions from across the world. The CAPTRS team and our panel of judges were impressed with the creativity, research and time that went into the submissions we received. All submissions will assist us in building our CAPTRS Universe of Threats – to address our collective failure of imagination in preparing for future threats. These scenarios will be used to create varied and diverse simulation games to prepare for potential future threats.

Contest Winners were:

  • Grand Prize – Ricky Shaw
  • Runners Up – Andrew Wilson and S.A. Thurtle
  • Third Prize – Marlon Haygood, Hilary Greenleaf, Florence Liu, Samuel John and Ishita Das
  • Creative Prize – Dean Gessie
  • Honorable Mentions – Harshita Srivastava, Brooklyn Peters, Sasha Annabel, Katrina Watson, Nikolas Falco, Peyton Beaumont and Priscilla Dankwa

We are pleased to publish our top winning submissions below.

Grand Prize Winner: ATBEV by Ricky Shaw

Threat Overview: Referred to as aggressive tick-borne encephalitis virus (ATBEV) by the scientific community. Sensationalized as “Brain Rot” by the media and public. Due to increased global temperatures, the tick population of the continental United States boomed. This explosion — coupled with increasingly overpopulated cattle farms — led to a mass infection of the ruminant populations of America. Because the pathogen has such a wide and varied incubation period, as well as a second window before neurological symptoms present, the contaminated milk was able to be shipped worldwide before scientists were able to discover the connection.

Read Full Ground Truth for ATBEV

Read Full ATBEV Story

Runner-Up: Andrew Wilson and S.A. Thurtle

Human Myxoma Virus by Andrew Wilson

Threat Overview: Human Myxoma Virus is a member of the genus Leporipoxvirus. It is a mutation of the myxoma virus which causes myxomatosis in rabbits. The first known human hosts of this novel pox virus were in Svitnar, central Europe, where intensive rabbit farming is practiced for both meat and skins. An extremely transmissible new strain of myxoma virus was allowed to spread through these cage-bred rabbit populations because it did not prove lethal, instead confining its damage to the animal’s eyes. The rabbits were blinded, left with oozing wounds where their eyes would have been, yet their meat and pelts were intact and saleable. The new myxoma virus spread throughout farms in the region – possibly transferred by inspectors – and was well understood but hidden from the general public until it made the jump to humans. It is thought that the first human hosts would have been workers involved with the slaughter and skinning process but this is unconfirmed. The first reported cases were among the children of a Svitnar Kindergarten.

Read full Human Myxoma Virus Ground Truth

Read full story for Human Myxoma Virus

Wildfire in the City Limits by S.A. Thurtle

Threat Overview: Oswego Virus (OSWV) is a novel Orthohantavirus. OSWV is a heavily mutated Andes orthohantavirus, as such it is a Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) which frequently results in hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS) in patients. OSWV was first detected in sports fishermen and spectators who attended the Oswego Pro-Am Fishing Tournament (OPFT) on the Oswego River in Upstate New York. It is believed that the original carrier was in the local, wild rodent population. Evidence suggests that a single event, a charity barbeque held in the evening of the OPFT, was the largest source of infection.

Read full Ground Truth for Oswego Virus

Read full story for Wildfire in the City Limits

Third Place Award – Marlon Haygood, Hilary Greenleaf, Florence Liu, Samuel John & Ishita Das

HHV-5B by Marlon Haygood

Threat Overview: HHV-5B, often referred to as simply ‘5B’, is a unique strain of human cytomegalovirus, also known as Human betaherpesvirus 5 (HHV-5). The 5B strain emerged somewhere in South America. Natural variation during the replication of this extremely prevalent virus led to the evolution of a variant that was both more transmissible and more virulent. In the United States, human cytomegalovirus testing of newborns was rarely performed; more accurate prevalence estimates were only determined after targeted testing was performed on infants who failed their hearing screening. By the time the increase in clinical manifestations was noted, 5B had already established itself in the Americas.

Read full Ground Truth for HHV-5B

Read full story for HHV-5B

Still water, deep sky by Hilary Greenleaf

Threat Overview: The pathogen responsible for the current pandemic is the novel prion PrPjh. Prions are proteins, which in their normal form (PrPc) are found on the surface of human cells. However, abnormal forms of this protein are able to convert the normal form into their abnormal folded structure. When these cross the blood brain barrier, severe, rapidly progressing neurological disease occurs, with similarities to the prion disease Creutzfeldt-Jacob. The novel strain PrPjh responsible for the pandemic almost certainly originated in the tiny population of the endangered, forest dwelling bovine, Saola. It most likely spread to  humans when hunters with an interest in consuming endangered species travelled to Laos.

Read full Ground Truth for PrPjh

Read full story for Still water, deep sky

In Enemy Territory by Florence Liu

Threat Overview: Currently referred to as Novel Nipah Virus (NNiV). NNiV is a variant of the Nipah Virus, a zoonotic virus belonging to the genus Henipavirus in the family Paramyxoviridae. Infection spread began locally in southern villages in the country of Sormbay, located in South Asia. The largest employment sector in Sormbay is agriculture and due to high demand for agricultural products, more rural areas were developed into farms. Development encroached on wildlife habitat, including that of fruit bats. Farm crops contaminated with bat saliva or urine, subsequently infecting workers.

Read full Ground Truth for Novel Nipah Virus

Read full story for In Enemy Territory

Happiness is a Virtue by Samuel John and Ishita Das

Threat Overview: The family of picornaviruses (Picornaviridae), are well-known to cause asymptomatic to fatal disease, from rashes to encephalitis, in children less than 5 years of age. Human picornaviruses include the genus Enterovirus (EV). There is  limited surveillance and medical facilities in  illegal, poorly managed factories like the cattle ranches that have cropped up to replace large areas of the Amazon forests. EV-D73 would develop different modes of transmission circulating in a vulnerable population living in congested spaces, accumulating mutations, while remaining undetected.

Read full Ground Truth for EV-D73

Read full story for Happiness is a Virtue

Creative Award – Dean Gessie

There’s Something Happening Here by Dean Gessie

Threat Overview: Mucormycosis is a serious fungal infection, sometimes called black fungus syndrome, caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes. The mucormycosis strain in this scenario is a fungal infection whose symptomology is serious and familiar but selective. Mucormycete organisms are everywhere in nature, particularly in soil, decaying wood, fruit and vegetables, and other organic matter, such as animal feces. One can contract mucormycosis as a result of an untreated burn or blunt or penetrating trauma or by breathing in affected mold spores in the air, referred to as a sinus (pulmonary) exposure. Pathogen emergence in this scenario is partly the result of an EF5, long-track tornado in the Dixie Alley of the United States.

Read full Ground Truth for Mucormycosis

Read full storyfor There’s Something Happening Here