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'Crazy': Book from 1981 with disturbing coronavirus prediction sparks online storm

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

A Dean Koontz novel released nearly 40 years ago is at the centre of online furore after it appeared to predict the deadly outbreak of coronavirus.

An excerpt from The Eyes of Darkness, published in 1981, has gone viral on social media in recent weeks thanks to its disturbing similarities to the virus which has killed 2772 and sent Chinese province Hubei into an unprecedented lockdown.

It’s capital Wuhan, where the majority of confirmed cases have occurred, was chosen by the American author as the name of a deadly virus outbreak in the novel.

Koontz named the virus Wuhan-400 and wrote that the virus was man-made in a laboratory and was rapidly spreading across the city.

“They call the stuff ‘Wuhan-400’ because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside the city of Wuhan, and it was the fourth-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at the research centre,” it says.

A character explains that the virus was used by the Chinese to “wipe out a city or country” and was the “perfect weapon”.

And while there is no suggestion the current virus was purposely created to cause mass fatalities, one of the more prominent theories speculated online is that the virus actually originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology instead of a wet market where exotic animals were widely sold.

The striking similarities shocked thousands online, some calling it “crazy”.

Yet while the mortality rate in the novel sits at 100 per cent, the current outbreak, which has recently spiked in several countries outside of China, has a mortality rate of about 2 to 3 per cent.

And Koontz originally published a different version of the book, where the virus had broken out in Russia instead and was called Gorki-400.

The change to Wuhan came in 1989 when it was published following the collapse of the Soviet Union and US-Russian relations began to improve.

Coronavirus spreads rapidly outside of China

The number of new coronavirus infections inside China has for the first time been overtaken by fresh cases elsewhere, with Italy and Iran emerging as epicentres of the rapidly spreading illness.

Asia reported hundreds of new cases, Brazil confirmed Latin America's first infection and the disease was also detected for the first time in Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Romania and Algeria.

Travellers arrive at Sydney airport. Source: AAP

US health authorities, managing 59 cases so far – mostly Americans repatriated from a cruise ship in Japan – have said a global pandemic is likely.

US President Donald Trump, seeking to calm markets and an increasingly worried public, said in a live broadcast that the US was "very very ready" to face the virus threat and that Vice President Mike Pence would be in charge of the national response.

Stock markets across the world have lost $US3.3 trillion of value in four days of trading.

Wall Street reversed earlier gains on Wednesday and oil prices dropped to their lowest level in over a year, spooked in part by health officials saying dozens of people who had been in China were being monitored in suburbs of populous New York city - although no confirmed cases have been found.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged the federal government to tighten testing for visitors from a range of countries where the virus has been spreading, adding that its eventual detection in the city was "100 per cent certain."

While radical quarantining measures have helped slow the rate of transmission in China, it is accelerating elsewhere.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said China had reported 412 new cases on Tuesday, while there were 459 in 37 other countries.

There is no known vaccine for the virus. US pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences Inc said on Wednesday it had started two late-stage studies to test its experimental antiviral drug remdesivir in humans.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for sports and cultural events to be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks as concern mounted for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Sources told Reuters the International Monetary Fund was considering whether to make its April meeting in Washington virtual.

Latin America's first case was confirmed in a 61-year-old man in Sao Paulo, Brazil, who had recently visited Italy, a new front line in the global outbreak.

In addition to Brazil, Italians or people who recently visited Italy have tested positive in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Italy itself has reported more than 400 cases, centred on the industrial heartlands of Lombardy and Veneto.

With AAP

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