A New Host for a Persistent Virus
Apr 05, 2011

We’ve all heard of computer viruses, but last week I was struck with a new virus.  This time on my Twitter account.
It came to me in the most unexpected way… as it always does.
And there was obviously someone responsible for starting it…as there always is. 
The thing about viruses is that you never really know where or when they might appear.  Experts will tell you to take some simple precautions and use virus protection.  Certainly, if you’ve had a virus wreck complete havoc on your system you understand the pain and don’t need any reminder regarding prevention.     
But this virus is a bit different, to say the least.
While I discovered this virus with my computer, it has done nothing to damage my files, but ironically supported my work.  And while it has the ability to do some serious damage, it has targeted specific people, not computers.  Personally, I don’t believe there is any malicious intent behind the person who started this virus.  Rather, this virus seems to be an effective and entertaining way to educate people on the need for protection.   Protection that is not available from any software, but with a simple prick of a needle.    
The virus I’m referring to is rubeola, more commonly known as measles, and while it may have debuted on Twitter April 1st, this is no April fools. 
The Twitter profile reads as follows:

MorbillivirusRubeola
@Rubeola
A highly infectious virus that causes death and disability in those who are not immune to me. Humans are my only reservoir. Vaccines are my downfall.
http://rubeola.tumblr.com 

While I may not know who is behind this brilliant plan, I do know that they are sending a serious message and using the power of social media to do it. When following the Twitter feed, you’ll see that @Rubeola clearly credits the existence of measles on those who spread misinformation and refuse to vaccinate.   For example,

You lay off Jenny. I love her. She may be the single reason I get around so much now. Well, her and @DrWakefield.)
 Is @HAEScoach an anti-vaxer? She reads like one. God, I hope so. They’re the only reason I still walk this Earth. @HAEScoach sounds smart too. Her own research trumps that of entire institutions and organizations? Yowza!
 @karlap_carrillo Sorry, Karla. You should have gotten your vaccine. Please don’t spread me. I have a bad reputation as it is.
@sciencegurlz0 Except for people like Dr. Jay Gordon. He doesn’t recommend @MMR_vaccine anymore. Something about me being gone. Ha! 

In one personal encounter I had the other day, it became clear how serious @Rubeola could be.  After I sent a tweet out alerting people of the rising measles cases in a Somali community in MN, @GingerTaylor responded to my tweet by claiming that I “fret about plain old measles”.  She asked me to “please stop pretending u care about the Minn Somalis.”  Surprisingly, @Rubeola stepped in to clarify that there is nothing “plain” about measles and responded to us both by tweeting:

 “@GingerTaylor @ShotofPrev Plain old? Woman, I can kill. Or maim. Your choice.”

I must admit, as much as I distain measles, I was secretly grateful that @Rubeola exposed the severity of this virus to @GingerTaylor and many other Twitter followers. The fact is, whoever has chosen to personify the @Rubeola identity through Twitter has brilliantly enabled this virus to speak out. 
Personally, I enjoyed Rob Hinkley’s description best, when he suggested Twitter friends follow both @MMR_Vaccine and @Rubeola “… for the Twitter smackdown equivalent of Batman vs Joker”.
While I don’t want to promote the spread of measles , I do suggest you follow along.  As one of @Rubeola’s own tweets warned, you want to keep your friends close, but your enemies closer!  This is one clever virus that we should all keep an eye on and the reason why we all need a simple “shot of prevention”.


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3 responses to “A New Host for a Persistent Virus”

  1. Thank you for the mention. I started the Twitter account to bring more attention to the current situation in the United States and elsewhere with regards to measles. It is incredible to me that the existence of such a safe and effective vaccine has not managed to take out Rubeola, a virus whose only reservoir is humanity. Yes, some great apes can get measles, but only humans carry and distribute it like wildfire. With sustained levels of over 95% immunization, Rubeola would go the way of smallpox, saving about 160,000 lives and billions of dollars a year.
    The administrators of this blog will now have a hint of my true identity given that I had to enter my e-mail address. I ask that you hold it in confidence until the time that I myself “reveal” who I am to the world. I can assure you that I have the needed credentials to be considered an expert in measles and other infectious diseases.
    Thanks again for the mention, and I hope to help you in our shared goal of stopping the spread of misinformation about vaccines.

  2. Liz Ditz says:

    I admire @rubeola’s wit and wisdom. Maybe we can make a dent in the disinformation & outright lies spread by @vaxcalc and @vaccin8tionNews.
    For those of you who use twitter, there’s the #pathogenposse: @rubeola, @norovirus, @B_pertussis, and @flu_virus

  3. Chelsea says:

    I love this.

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