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This website contains the entire novel—linked and illustrated—along with information on influenza and bird flu, an art gallery & opportunities to buy personal protection gear and cultural merchandise (including books, movies, and music cited by American Fever's blogger).



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More Than ‘A Blog of the Pandemic Year’

Welcome to the words of a digital zombie.

I barely exist under any name, having relinquished my own years ago. I can’t say where I am. It’s dangerous.

I was long supposed to be dead. Now I’m a flugitive, still pursued by the U.S. government for crimes I allegedly committed amid a collapse of order, justice, and sanity.

Yet I’m here—in your hands—breathing anew. Thank you.

A year ago I was miserable, hiding in a distant and unmentionable spot under an assumed identity. I was sprawled one afternoon in a dingy Internet café, yawning over a cheap stimulating beverage and scanning news of places I once knew. Playing Nostalgia for Dummies.

When I discovered that my former self had risen in spirit, it was hard not to jump up and scream, buy everyone a round. The flu blog I had cursed more than once—shut down by the Feds during the Great H5N1 Avian Pandemic—was suddenly a big-selling book. Its vanished author was being mourned as a tragic victim, a heroic and romantic American who had died on the run from the Feds.


I could hardly breathe. Would the others hear my heart exploding, see my eyes blazing? They ignored me as I clicked on, trying to picture a shop with my blog posts waving at passersby in the window. (Does Manhattan still have bookstores?)

 I read that my humble rants had been preserved, as if in amber, by a program at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, where countless blogs from many nations were recorded during the contagion. By the time H5N1 bird flu followed swine flu, New Zealand was so well prepared that students and professors could play the role that Irish monks had fulfilled for civilization in the Dark Ages, safeguarding a world of restless outbursts.

A couple of years after killer H5N1 evolved into a moderate seasonal flu, an enterprising editor in New York had sifted Auckland’s hoard and published excerpts from some American blogs whose authors had died in the pandemic. Lost Voices was a critical and commercial success.

My older brother turned up to demand royalty payments from the publisher.

Impressed by kind reviews for my entry and inspired by the prospect of cash, my brother set about publishing my entire blog. Typically, he corrupted it.

The rascal spun nonsense about how he had lovingly tracked my escape from New York to a lonely stretch in the Missouri woods where he and I once played together. (He never explained how I had crawled into that unmarked grave.) He doctored my blog posts, adding positive references about himself and removing factual mentions I’d made of him. As you’ll see, I had taken pains to avoid revealing that the biggest wretch in my blog—worse than any torturing Fed flunkie—was my kin. Wary that a few survivors might recognize his sleazy self, my brother scrubbed my blog.

Worse, he added a really sappy poem he claimed I had left behind. Talk about defiling the dead!

It was this contaminated version—which he sold for a sizable advance as A Blog of the Pandemic Year—that drew sufficient acclaim to catch my eye. Subsequent communications with lawyers and editors from my hole in the known world can’t be detailed here, but I’m grateful to all of them—and to some very courageous intermediaries—for their patience, fortitude, and discretion.

Now we have fully reissued my blog with introductory and closing comments as American Fever: A Tale of Romance & Pestilence. Amid what the world hopes is a permanent break in the political fever that gripped the United States during the pandemic, a bold publisher has invested in freedom—yours and mine. Editors have even restored my website at It contains every blog entry, complete with artwork, photographs, and live links to a universe of vivid information. I welcome you to contact me there.

I Blogged My Life to Pieces

My writing began humbly as an adjunct to a website I had created to peddle masks, gloves, and goggles to Internet consumers. I never intended to make history. I’d long planned to be far from New York City when H5N1 showed up.

Well, as so many individuals and governments proved with devastating incompetence, it’s really hard to prepare for a flu pandemic, even if you’re certain one is coming. I was still in town the day the first New Yorker succumbed, when I posted the initial entry, Day 1: Sign Up to Fight Killer Pandemic Flu!

I continued in that vein for more than half a year—through the second, shattering wave—until the government crashed my site.

I mainly intended to help people by offering advice and insights (and sure, blow off a little steam) as I sat, safe at home. Personal material quickly crept into my account.

Soon I was shocked to find myself entertaining strangers around the world. Like a kid who gets a kick when adults laugh at his manic antics, I went too far now and then. Some entries are embarrassing, even for a guy who barely exists. A few are funnier than I meant them to be. Frequently the joke was on me.

Some things I wrote have since proven to be scientifically incorrect. That’s inevitable. Even today—five years after a pandemic that unfolded in front of our finest scientific minds—man’s comprehension of influenza remains a primitive work in progress.

Looking back, I marvel at our hubris in attempting to contain a planetary process that’s more like continental drift than the common cold. Try soothing El Niño with a shot and some pills.

You will see that many of my early certainties dissolved into questions, particularly after I made the acquaintance of a prior pandemic zombie. This was a deceased English doctor whose fresh thinking on influenza had been ignored, even scorned, during his century-long life.

As I write this (wondering, as ever, if footsteps I hear are coming for me) I try to keep in mind my original readers. These folks asked my advice, offered their own, mocked me, praised me, threatened me, consoled me. I have overcome the impulse—the compulsion—to update things, correct errors, smooth kinks, erase my idiocies. They’re not mine any more, but yours. They changed hands once I posted them.

With one worthy exception, I’m also resisting the impulse to explain details in advance. Whenever you find a reference to “my very old friend” (whom I eventually coded as Mark), please program yourself to substitute “my *&@%$^ older brother,” as in Mark (of Cain).

You will find that this character relentlessly exploited and betrayed me. I wanted to like him, as I had when we were little kids and I didn’t know better. You know how it is: Some relatives are like pesky bugs that came with the place.

As I wrote my blog, I sought to smooth over my brother’s shortcomings out of respect for our family. Hoping my forbearance wouldn’t seem stupid and contemptible to my readers, I dressed my big brother up, coded him as one of those pals we choose to forgive. His greed and duplicity—and our parents’ deaths in the third pandemic wave—have liberated me from such consideration.

I invite you to read between my lines. I’m still discovering subliminal secrets, messages I couldn’t have fathomed when I wrote them. I know I never would have started the blog if I’d thought my personal life would figure so prominently in it. That happened to a lot of bloggers when the Web was young and innocent. And free.

In addition to being accurate and complete, this restored edition contains a bonus: I’ve written an afterword that completes my account as much as my present legal circumstances permit. I hope to be able to explain much more in a future edition—one with a dizzyingly happy ending that I earned by falling so deeply in love amid such horror.

I dedicate this volume to my mystery mailer. I still—and I will!—love you.

Finally, I thank everyone I mentioned in the blog. I choose not to name a number of people who have helped me, lest they be tarnished and persecuted as my accomplices. Most of you know who you are. Wink.

Day 1: Sign Up to Fight Killer Pandemic Flu >>>


Day 1: Sign Up to Fight Killer Pandemic Flu!

Call me Maskman. You might come up with worse names before we’re finished.

I’m starting this blog tonight because I’m scared. Sure, I fear my writing will suck and you’ll all think I’m a moron. That goes without saying.

I’m much more worried that we’re all going to die because the last new flu that hit the U.S. laid an egg that still stinks. Americans no longer believe influenza can kill anyone but old folks—and maybe a few younger people crossed by bad luck, as if they got hit-and-run by a drunken virion. After swine flu’s flop, who respects influenza?

NO BOWL OF RASPBERRIES: THE H5N1 VIRUSThere’s a distant quality to the TV reports about H5N1‘s global spread, as if the problem were some volcano in Sumatra. Images are scarce, unaffecting. Nothing reads: Crisis!

Sure, the talking heads mention that mutated bird flu probably showed its teeth in New York today, after weeks of false alarms. They say it may have killed a yet-to-be-identified bus driver, but add that there’s no proof we face a pandemic. We see video of the early alarm in 2009, when a New York high school erupted in swine flu when some kids brought it back from Mexico. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are holding lots of meetings, urging calm in more and more places. Ho-hum. What’s for dinner?

The stock market went down hard but recovered. Big-time traders don’t ride buses.

I hear that eyewitnesses in Bushwick said the driver hacked up blood all over his windshield before crashing into a bodega. And that half-a-dozen other people are said to be lying in rotten condition in hospitals all over town, apparently quarantined as likely avian flu victims.

My neighbors aren’t impressed. New Yorkers do more damage to each other on quiet evenings. I can already hear lusty students from Happy Hour U marching down Avenue B to a chorus of shrieks. The guy downstairs is bawling out his boyfriend’s sister. This always excites the Doberman next door.

What would it take for a microbe to impress these busy, urbane souls?

This disease-of-the-week thing is old. Since 9/11 we’ve seen (more like: heard about) West Nile virus, SARS, the original, dreaded H5N1 bird flu, untreatable TBX tuberculosis, MRSA, dengue fever, and swine flu. Someone dusted midtown Manhattan with what the government claims was its own anthrax. So why should Gothamites care about some remix of a flopped avian flu that scared everyone silly in 2006 and then flew around afflicting (mostly) Egyptians and Indonesians?

Because this one’s a Category 5 hurricane. Welcome to the Ninth Ward, folks. (You do remember New Orleans, right? Katrina…?)

I’m already watching conspiracy theories pop up all over the Web. The social networks are abuzz with cynical comments and theories. Most people who think flu is dangerous seem convinced it’s a man-made microbe. Others think it’s an overblown fraud. One way or the other, immigrants, pharmaceutical companies, Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists, gays, and the United Nations are all suspected of duping us.

Doesn’t anyone respect nature around here? Not all catastrophes are caused by humans.

We have to challenge this attitude—and not because the government says so. We must speak out because H5N1 avian pandemic flu has everything the Great Pandemic Flu of 1918 had and more. It’s transmitting more easily every day and it looks to be able to kill a greater percentage of people more horribly than any influenza ever recorded. Far more than anyone ever predicted swine flu would kill. As shown in the movie, Awakenings, survivors can sustain nerve damage, even develop Parkinson’s Disease.

Swine Flu's Secret Punch

Here’s the problem. The so-called swine flu that surfaced in the U.S. and Mexico to cause such a stir in 2009 had a remarkable pedigree: It contained genes from birds, pigs, and humans. Before it faded in a backwash of popular annoyance and ennui, novel H1N1 left the world a monstrous memento.

True to its nickname, swine flu managed to get into Indonesia’s pig population. There it encountered H5N1, the incredibly nasty bird flu that loved to get into mammals but was having a hard time getting humans to pass it to each other.

Nature doesn’t care about irony. It’s just a coincidence that pigs in a Muslim country hooked up the two flu viruses. Those who accuse ‘Muslim bioterrorists’ of cooking up this contagion are ignoring that experts warned in 2009 that Novel H1N1 and H5N1 might join forces.

After H1N1 gave up some vital genetic snippets—presumably through a process known as reassortment—H5N1 took to killing more Indonesians. Then Vietnamese. It popped up in Hong Kong, as it has done intermittently since 1997. In the last month mutated avian flu has struck four continents, killed at least 100 people. Some cases already show signs of picking up immunity to Tamiflu—the primary antiviral medicine in the world’s flu arsenal. While H5N1 learns how to infect us, we’re learning that mankind drew all the wrong lessons from swine flu.


This is no time to be smug. Sure, I’ve got a lifetime supply of personal protection gear, which I sell on this site. I can’t prove it makes much difference if we wear professional-grade masks, goggles, and gloves. (Experts in and out of the government are downright confused.) I wear it.

I got into this line of work because I was scared and wanted to fight this disease. By the time the threat is formally recognized, H5N1 will be upon us. It’s already here, where I live. Coming soon to your ‘hood. Get ready.

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot! Welcome to my blog. I haven’t ever done this. Be kind.

I invite you to visit the flu bloggers and news sources I rely on. Most have been reporting and analyzing viral developments for many years. We’re lucky to be entering this crisis with so many seasoned commentators at hand. I’m the no-name rookie.


Day 2: Cracks Appear in Our Medical Temples

With two New York corpses awaiting final testing results and 16 likely victims in intensive care, we’re awash in flu news. It’s about time.

The biggest story isn’t the local contagion, however. It’s in Vancouver, where a family of tourists from Szechuan who seemed fit when they landed five days ago is now in the ICU. All of them, plus a tour guide and a pizza vendor who served them. Coincidence? That would hardly be reassuring.

Not that some aren’t still fiddling. While the WHO meets again to debate alert levels amid so many complaints about how quickly they raised them for swine flu, veteran flu debunkers peddle cynicism across our TV screens. They cite New York’s past scares and promise this month’s menace will pass, too. Sometimes I wonder if these guys would have sneered at the 1918 pandemic, too: Hey, what’s all the fuss? I feel fine. The Black Death was so much worse and we’re all here, right…?


Like Wall Streeters who insisted that dot-coms and real estate would pay off forever, the flu skeptics have been right for years. When they’re finally wrong, the downside will be far worse than any stock market crash. (Financial Armageddon will be the least of it.)

Some fear H5N1. That sprawling fistfight streaming in various versions on the Web took place outside New York’s biggest hospital. It hints at what’s coming.

The riot squad looks ill-prepared. Sure, they’ve got plenty of weapons. But their paper masks look like a joke to me. Helmets and clubs and tasers won’t protect cops from flu as they face off against flushed and furious New Yorkers desperate to get inside a building that’s bursting with virions.

New York’s hospitals are filling with frightened, sneezing people. It is reported that some doctors, nurses, and technicians are already missing in action. These professionals know what we face. Many were given paper surgical masks that I consider next to useless at blocking the tiny aerosol particles that erupt when people cough or sneeze.

The pros know that our surviving medical facilities—redesigned to shed excess capacity—can’t cope with virulent influenza. Those who slashed medical personnel and resources in the somersaulting recession made no provision for surges in demand. As with dominoes, a systems failure anywhere may mean contagious collapse for all.

Nothing could lure me to a clinic tonight. Survivors will someday look back on today’s emergency rooms with revulsion— as we now think of the notion that surgeons would ever slice into us with unclean hands and tools. (American hygiene still isn’t what we prefer to imagine: Read some grisly studies about how few doctors wash their hands.)

It’s safer to stay home with people and creatures we love, and who care about us enough to hydrate us in a pinch. In this regard, I’m a very lucky man.

Newbies to H5N1 can pass their early self-quarantine days reading copies of Dr. Grattan Woodson’s excellent The Bird Flu Preparedness Planner and The Bird Flu Manual or download for free his Good Home Treatment Of Influenza. (He’ll tell you all about hydration.)

My home is crammed to the cobwebs with boxes of the best respirators, masks, gloves, goggles, and disinfectant I could stockpile. (Plenty of water, beer, wine, and spirits, too.) I hope to save a lot of lives. Anyone who doesn’t catch flu is someone who won’t spread it, so I take pleasure in helping people who will never even hear of my wares.

DIY or Die

Surviving this thing will take more than protective gear. It will take wit and heart and luck. It demands the do-it-yourself spirit that animated the American settlers and New York punk rockers of yore. DIY can save us. It kinda has to.

As long as the Internet holds up, we’re linked. There will be times the digital thread fails us—when electricity is cut, servers can’t handle increased demand, or workers are too sick to keep the ISPs afloat. I won’t be surprised if criminal botnets try to do more than sell phony flu cures and counterfeit Tamiflu. People still robbed banks in 1918; I’ll bet those little gauzy masks everyone wore made it easy.

For now, we’re joined in our isolation. We can safely trade insights to help each other survive. Contact me at this website and I’ll post tips I like.

My digital bean counter says I’ve already snared some readers. I presume they came to buy and stayed for the bonus verbology (with a splash of virology).

Next, I'll have more to say about how we can defend ourselves. Hint: We need to infect society with rational fear. We need to go viral—no less than H5N1 has done. People far from New York must prepare. It's not too late! Yet.


Day 3: A Libertarian With Hopes, Fears & Regrets

I’d like to apologize for yesterday’s post. My friendly unofficial editor says it looks boastful, the words of a wise guy who saw it all coming.

I’m not here to lecture anyone. I don’t have to blog to sell my products, which have certain nonverbal charms.

I hope it’s clear that I’m more frightened than you are. I’ve built a lifetime hoard of masks and gloves and goggles and disinfectant, and I’ve been hiding at home for more than a week. My roommate and I withdrew from the world after H5N1 killed that vegan in Sweden. The authorities couldn’t blame chickens or pigs for her condition.

SINCE KATRINA, THE PENTAGON CARES MORE ABOUT OUR HEALTHI’m also sorry that some of you think I’m encouraging medical personnel to stay home. I agree that these times call for heroic acts, even if our first responders aren’t properly equipped. But I respectfully—violently—oppose the idea that they should be arrested and prosecuted for dereliction of duty. These people are civilians, not soldiers.

A lot of states are calling up emergency legislation to yank licenses from medical professionals who fail to show up for work. If the government is going to approach this deadly emergency by punishing the living, we’re worse off than I feared.

As for my politics, I can assure you I’m not particularly liberal. I am libertarian with a small l. I trust few politicians, no parties. No institutions. No tea brands. I haven’t seen leaders do much I consider praiseworthy. I’ve watched the presidency amass powers that few who signed the Declaration of Independence would have endorsed. I’ve watched Congress turn into the world’s most predictable game show. Our Supreme Court couldn’t judge a music contest without displaying extreme prejudice.

It’s nice to think that persevering civil servants in Washington will ensure we have enough food, water, electricity, and heat. But as this report from the American Civil Liberties Union warns, they’re far better geared to lock us all up. Post-9/11 doctrine gives the U.S. military and the Department of Homeland Security the authority to force Americans to be medicated, quarantined, and vaccinated if the president declares it necessary. Today's Pentagon intensively tracks flu around the world. (Do the generals know that ‘magic bullet’ is a metaphor?)

This libertarian simply wants the government to function politely and effectively.

I’m overwhelmed by demand for personal protection items, so I have work to do. I’ll return tomorrow with some useful information.

Meanwhile, I can report the failure of my neighbors’ annual April Fools bash, though it’s been a gorgeous night here. Normally the NYPD would have crashed the party by now. In lieu of guests, all I can detect across the street are empty thumping pop music and ripples of laughter. New Yorkers are lying low. Stay well.


Day 3 (#2): A Helpful Glimpse of Hell

I’ve just returned from a kind of purgatory—a gateway to hell that’s not quite open yet.

I should explain that I have a partner in this business, someone I worked with years ago. He joined up with me a couple of months back to sell personal protective gear. (He still has a job that demands focus, so he’s basically an investor.)

Tonight a blue SUV with New Jersey plates swept through a Soho bike lane painted green and slammed my friend and his bicycle into a parked car, then took off. My headstrong friend tried to ride after him but his wheel was warped, so he didn’t get far. That’s all he remembers before he turned up here, bent and gasping.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS: NURNBERG 1682Once inside, he started vomiting. He had a headache. No other flu symptoms. No apparent broken bones. I googled symptoms of internal injury and couldn’t find blood in his barf. Still, he needed a doctor: an MRI, X-Rays, a proper inquiry.

After waiting an hour for an ambulance, we walked to the nearest hospital. He said it was a good thing nobody reads my blog because the staff would otherwise know I’d said hospitals are dangerous places staffed by filthy people. “Only the doctors,” I reminded him. “Which would make the nurses extra-kind to you.”

He wasn’t convinced. He hates my blogging, thinks I’m going to annoy you all and blow his savings. “Why insult your customers? Have they insulted you?” (Well, no, but I haven’t insulted any readers either.) I shut him up by pointing out that if you all link to this site, our products will achieve better visibility—with no advertising expense. Sales are booming anyway. Case closed.

Yeah, he’s the mercenary one. I’m the carrot—who’s really blogging because I feel like communicating with you all. He has to put up with me because I do all the work.

No Disease Permitted Without Photo I.D.

The cops almost didn’t let us into the hospital. Not because it was too crowded or rife with contagion, which it was. They didn’t like our … masks and goggles. This may have been a matter of jealousy, but they said it was a security precaution. They wanted to see faces and ID. They keep records of all visitors.

I hated the thought of unveiling myself at the entrance to an orgy of killer microbes. My friend was incensed. I’m a libertarian, but I’m not paranoid; he is both. I worry about the potential for the government to track us all into virtual cells; he thinks it’s been happening for years.

My partner thus told the cops to go to hell. Which meant: no help for him. I tried to explain that he was in shock, had been run over. They told us to step aside so others could jam the doorway.

Then my friend did what he always does—surprised me with a sudden theatrical turn that reboots a tense situation. He fainted.

His ideological incapacitation enabled some orderlies to remove his mask while I extracted his ID. They put him on a stretcher and processed him for four hours amid the kind of chaos I depicted pretty well yesterday. People inside were yelling, coughing, screaming, sneezing, moaning, dying. I didn’t see any fights, but this is known to be a pretty civilized hospital. The medical staff looked exhausted in a motley array of masks—no goggles.

The young doctor we saw was probably an intern. She didn’t really listen and we barely understood her mumbling. After poking my partner to assure there were no broken ribs or internal injuries, she ordered some tests and told us to come back for an MRI in a few days, “when things have calmed down.” Fat chance.