As modern medicine gets more sophisticated, so do diseases. Some develop resistance to antibiotics, others join Facebook. Perhaps the most tech-savvy pathogen is swine flu.
Scientists have been able to track the virus' origins and spread simply by reading its posts on Twitter and Facebook. Sample entries:
• Just added "Outbreak" to my Netflix queue. I hope it's the director's cut.
• I'm in New Jersey! Then again, what threat to humanity isn't?
• Right now, I'm just trying to be the best pathogen I can. Movies, TV shows, action figures. That's my manager's job.
In another first, the swine flu virus recently agreed to an e-mail interview with NotTheLATimes.com, excerpted below:
Question: If you could kill only five people, who would top the list?
Swine Flu: I try not to personalize this [stuff]. Infecting and killing is in my nature, and I'm sure good people have fallen. That being said, if I could target certain folks, the list would look something like this:
• Miley Cyrus. Do I need to give a #@!%ing reason?
• The Jonas Brothers. (They count as one person)
• Hitler. It seems like a nice thing to do and could sorta help my image. You know how companies donate a percentage of their profits to charity? It would be like that. Killing Hitler would earn goodwill. Oh, and I'd have to get a time machine.
• Donald Trump. He is NOT a good businessman, everybody! Wake up!
• I'd let President Obama decide the fifth person.
Q: Do you have any heroes?
A: I definitely look up to the Black Plague ... But, for my money, nothing beats the rage virus from "28 Days Later." It gets in your eyes, turns you into a zombie and you eat other people! As a virus, I don't want to have to do all the work.
A: People think I just infect people, close schools and undermine economic activity, but I do have other interests. I recently visited Hong Kong, where I stopped by the Giant Buddha and meditated on suffering. Reaching a higher state of consciousness is definitely part of the big picture for me.
Q: Did you go to college? If so, what was your major?
A: That's a dumb #@!%ing question. I'm a virus.
Q: Why do you think Joe Biden is so afraid of you?
A: Most politicians try to minimize panic, tell people to be all calm or whatever. But here's a guy willing to yell fire in a crowded theater. I love this guy!
Q: What have you been doing since the swine flu scare of 1976?
A: Mostly regrouping. 1976 was a great year for me ... [but] then AIDS came along and really stole the spotlight. Look, I've got nothing but respect for HIV. ... But I've been at this for over 90 years, and it was hard for me to sit on the sidelines and watch some upstart take all the glory. So mostly I watched music videos.
Q: What's your family background? Are you related to Miss Piggy?
A: Despite my public image, I'm not a pig. Miss Piggy is cool and all, but we're not the same. She's a good front lady though, and she's got mad attitude like me. I'm a proud member of the Influenzavirus A species and have mad cousins. ... I represent the H1N1 subtype, which is responsible for the Russian Flu (killed 1 million) and the Spanish Flu (killed 100 million). H1N1 is the only member of the family to achieve pandemic status. It's an honor to carry on the torch.
Q: Anything else?
A: I was thinking about fronting a hip-hop artist called Sir Sneeze-a-lot just to promote my message. My thing is, I'm out here innovating. I got a Facebook page, I'm throwing face-licking parties and I even have e-mail and a phone line. I'm a 21st century, web 3.0 pandemic. This ain't your granddaddy's virus.
Editor's Note: NotTheLATimes.com, where this interview originally appeared, didn't create the swine flu's online persona. The virus operates independently (although it might use a secretary to handle typing).
Follow Roy Rivenburg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NotTheLATimes