Doctor Barry Eisenbarth had worked at the Morgan Institute for Biomedical Research in Manhattan for twenty-five years. When he first joined the staff, he was highly regarded as a brilliant researcher who had wowed his colleagues at Yale with his Ph.D. dissertation. His area of expertise was in manipulating the inner workings of pathogenic organisms. He had begun to master the process of turning on and off the genetic switches which made germ cells tick.
Dr. Eisenbarth was a talented scientist, but up until now his work has all amounted to far less than expected. If he were a professional baseball player, he would have been cut from the team a long time ago. No one was more frustrated and embarrassed by this than Barry himself. It was not for lack of effort. He and his faithful research assistant, Rachel Hartwell, had labored for thousands of hours through the years only to achieve interesting yet mundane results.
Refusing to accept a career without stellar accomplishment as his fate, Dr. Eisenbarth spawned a plan that could land him a Noble Prize. He generated a super-virulent strain of the dreaded pneumonic plague, also known as the Black Death of the 14th century. Next, he created an ingenious cure, which required injecting the victim with a lab-engineered virus. The manmade virus would then eat into the cell wall of the Yersinia pestis bacteria rendering it into a harmless state of suspended animation.
To be sure Barry first infected himself with the plague. In one of the labs negative pressure rooms, he inhaled the Yersinia spores which he obtained from the CDC in Atlanta under the pretense that it would be used for some other legitimate purpose. Within 24 hours the symptoms began manifesting themselves. Without delay, the doctor inoculated himself with the curative viral agent. Like magic within four hours, he was feeling well again. These experiments he kept to himself.
Although Rachel did notice Dr. Eisenbarth’s activity in the lab, she did not question him. The following day, however, her curiosity got the best of her, and she asked him about the experiment. The doctor explained partially without incriminating himself. He then instructed Rachel to continue monitoring the flask for 14 days. Then she was to discard the vial of broth and other equipment according to the usual biohazardous materials protocol.
But Rachel was now very curious because of the mysterious nature the doctor had assigned to this particular undertaking. Two weeks later, instead of discarding the experiment, she moved it to a storage closet down the hall. There she continued to observe the vial of deactivated pneumonic plague material not even realizing its harmful potential.
Dr. Eisenbarth waited until the tenth day after he had treated himself with the cure. Then he began his campaign of spreading the air-borne plague bacteria. That night Barry caught several taxis to different destinations around New York City. It was a Friday evening when the nightlife was really jumping. In the backseat, he sprayed the active plague spores into the air using a two-dollar spray bottle purchased at a local Duane Read drug store. By the time the night was done Barry had been all around town and spent almost $400 on cab fares. To be cautious, he injected himself with another dose of the cure.
Within a week people began showing up at several area hospitals. They all had the same symptoms, presenting at the emergency room with severe fevers and coughing up blood as the plague ravaged their lungs. Typical antibiotic therapy was not effective against this “Superflu” as it was being referred to on the news. Nearly 100 people were reported to be fighting for their lives, as thousands more were now starting to show signs of being infected by the unfolding airborne pandemic.
Dr. Eisenbarth showed up at the lab early the next day. It was time for the hero to come to the rescue. He began making phone calls to hospitals all around town connecting with different heads of infectious disease to inform them that he had been working with the CDC on a new influenza cure, and he knew, based on empirical evidence, that it would work against this new “Superflu.” The doctor even went against Morgan Institute’s policy and contacted the media to come in for a press conference before running it by his superiors and the public relations department.
As he hung up from one of the many calls he had made, Rachel interrupted him.
Doctor Eisenbarth, about that experiment you ask me to get rid of a couple of weeks ago.
“Yes, what about it Rachel?” The doctor said just before he began coughing.
I kept it going, and there is something you should see.
Barry looked at Rachel with a puzzled and disturbed expression on his face.
“Show me.” He said calmly.
The two of them dressed in white lab coats walked down the well-polished tiled hall and entered the storage closet. Rachel switched on the light and directed the doctor to the lower shelf where she had placed the experiment days before. By now the doctor was coughing almost uncontrollably.
Dr. Eisenbarth became pale as a ghost when he saw that the Yersinia colony had sprung back to life. It was now growing up from the broth and covering the entirety of the inside of the flask. The cure had failed. The Black Death was back with a vengeance.
Hi, I'm Lester Patterson,