From the Archive: Fowl Plague

From the Archive: Fowl Plague

Back in 2017, I worked on a series of articles about the risk of a major pandemic for How We Get To Next. The series was called Fowl Plague - not my pun, unfortunately, but the original name for avian influenza when it was discovered in 1878.

The series consisted of five longish-form articles by award-winning writer Simon Parkin, telling the story of avian flu from the Great War to the present day. There are scenes that are chillingly near-future dystopian:

Within weeks supermarket shelves sit bare. The lines at gas stations stretch lingeringly along the highway—at least, for those short days before the pumps squeeze dry.

As well as the main story, we produced a series of "extras" - additional content along the theme of the series. A reading list. An explainer on how diseases pass from animals to humans. Another on the role of technology in fighting pandemics. A comic, written by me and drawn by the wonderful Tom Humberstone, explaining how we were just five mutations from a major pandemic. That last one I'm particularly proud of, and I'm so reproducing it in full below (it's published under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license).

Explore the whole series on Medium here:

Fowl Plague
The world may be in the earliest scenes of a disaster movie. Avian influenza, better known as bird flu, is just a handful of genetic mutations away from turning into what could be the largest, deadli…