Virally-Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome, most commonly known by the acronym VITAS, is an illness caused by a highly-lethal, highly-communicable airborne virus. Two strains of VITAS rampaged across the world in the first quarter of the 21st century, killing billions from initial exposure and subsequent secondary infections. In many ways, VITAS set the stage for the fall of the old powers and the rise of the new powers prior to the coming of the Sixth World.
VITAS becomes evident 12 hours after initial exposure. Following incubation, initial symptoms include fever, chills, and vomiting. If unchecked, VITAS progresses into anaphylactic shock, with an increase in histamine levels causing bronchospasms and vasodilation. Most deaths occur from bronchoconstriction, leading to suffocation. Average individuals who are exposed to any strain of VITAS have the following approximate statistical likelihood of surviving, presuming drug therapies are on hand:
Humans, elves: 1:216.
Trolls, dwarfs: 1:36.
Humans and elves have a very high chance of being dead within 12 hours following initial exposure, due to the increased likelihood of succumbing immediately to the induced allergy. Orks and trolls, with their more robust constitutions, are much more likely to survive the initial onset of symptoms, as are dwarves with their innate resistance to toxins and pathogens.
A variety of treatments are available. Tetracycline was initially used against VITAS-1, these treatments gave way to more modern antivirals such as Zeta-Interferon, and have some effect at hindering the virus by interfering with viral reproduction. Subsequent strains are becoming more resistant to antiviral therapy, however. Antihistamines provide some relief to the symptoms. Magical treatment greatly increases the chance of survival. It is believed to have been another factor in Amerind populations remaining unscathed from the disease. There is also evidence that native folk medicines helped stave off the infection in Africa.
Although there have been rumors and conspiracy theories that a viral-form biological weapon with similar vectors and symptoms was being developed at a research lab in Christmas Valley, Oregon (now currently owned by TIC in Tir Tairngire), the first recorded cases of VITAS occurred in 2010 in New Delhi, India and would soon spread to all corners of the world.
Over the next two years, the VITAS pandemic killed off approximately a quarter of the world’s population (based off 2002 projections of world population growth, approx. two billion dead). Asia, then North America and Europe were the first to be hit. The most extreme response to VITAS was the “Terror Time” in Mexico City, in which the self-proclaimed Citizen’s Action Committees burned down most of the city to prevent infection. A similar incident occurred in Calcutta, India, resulting in the entire city being rebuilt. The Native American internment centers would be spared from the VITAS outbreak, ironically, since their populations were isolated.
In 2011, VITAS hit the African continent, where forty percent of the VITAS worldwide death toll took place. Three-quarters of the population were infected before the World Health Organization and other international organizations could step in, and even when medical supplies where provided, local governments withheld vaccinations from large portions of the populace in order to either sell to the highest bidder or just make sure the people they wanted to survive did so. In the end, the death toll from primary infection would stand at 750 million in sub-Saharan Africa, over 30 million on the coasts of West Africa, and the island nation of Madagascar would be almost depopulated, with 10 million dead out of 14 million, or over 70% of the nation’s population.
Strain II, during the 2020s, did another number on the world, again doing the most damage in developing countries. This strain killed another 10% of the world’s population—nine hundred million (900,000,000) people. Despite many places in the industrialized nations having the therapies on-hand, practically in-hand at the time of infection and onset, VITAS still hacked a swath through the developed world.