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A friend of mine observed that HMHVV is somewhat like the Shadowrun world's equivalent of HIV. Both viruses have been subject to huge publicity and controversy, and both lead to debilitating conditions for which no cure exists. This is about where the similarity ends...

Introduction and History

The Human-Metahuman Vampiric Virus, a retrovirus first isolated in 2035, is the only example of an astrally sensitive microorganism found in nature. All strains of HMHVV are activated by the presence of sufficiently high levels of mana in the environment. It is speculated that the required level was hit globally in 2021, the same time that 'goblinization' afflicted metahumans worldwide.

Evidence suggests that the virus existed dormant in human carriers long prior to 2021; the activation of the dormant virus and resulting transformation of thousands of human carriers led to the misclassification of ghouls as goblinized humans until the Krieger strain (HMHVV-IV) was identified in 2049.


Transmission

HMHVV is transmitted by the exchange of bodily fluids, prolonged physical contact or sharing of unsanitary living space with the infected. Deliberate infection is the most likely scenario, but a notable exception is the case of Tamir Grey, a medical researcher who spent three years living with and studying the Chicago ghoul community before becoming infected with HMHVV-IV himself.

Infected humans are not the only carriers of HMHVV. Sasquatches can become infected with HMHVV (becoming "bandersnatches"), and the Central American Chupacabra has tested positive for a unique strain of the virus.


Initial Symptoms and Diagnosis

Once infected, there is an incubation period of twelve hours before initial symptoms set in. Mercifully, many do not survive the initial symptoms of violent nausea, chills and delerium; those who do experience them for up to a month as the virus takes hold of their system. During this period the physical changes associated with the virus take place, usually accompanied by the rejection of all cybernetic implants.

Although infection is usually immediately apparent (an infected ork starts developing shaggy white body fur, a pending ghoul's skin becomes scabrous, etc), the similarity between the initial symptoms of HMHVV and VITAS lead to many misdiagnoses. As awareness of this problem increases, misdiagnoses are becoming rarer, since most patients taken in with VITAS-like symptoms are given the Harz-Greenbaum blood series test for the presence of HMHVV.


Common Long-term Symptoms

Although HMHVV is named for the first observed victim (a human "vampire"), it has numerous strains and affects all metatypes differently. Present in all nearly victims, however, are an allergy to sunlight, a degeneration of the astral body, an immunity to pathogens and an effective end to the aging process.

The astral degeneration is the most notorious aspect of HMHVV infection. Although a vampire must drink blood, as must a goblin or wendigo consume raw flesh, this is not out of a physical need: the ingestion of blood or flesh is the ritual medium by which they absorb astral energy to repair their decaying "auras." For this reason, providing HMHVV victims with donations of their ritual medium is ineffective; when not accompanied by strong emotion (fear, lust, anger -- anything), the consumption has no effect.


Vampires

The infected human is the traditional vampire. The physical changes undergone by the human HMHVV-I infectee are more subtle than with other strains or metatypes: the only outward signs are increased muscle and bone density (making it difficult for vampires to swim) and elongated canines.

The vampire's preference for blood as its ritual medium may be cultural. The Caribbean sukuran shows a need for salt in its diet, and the Filipino abat prefers to consume internal organs. All vampires are incapable of safely consuming more than a trace amount of anything but raw flesh or blood, reacting particularly badly to alcohol.

Although vampires do have a severe allergy to sunlight and a mild one to wood, they are unafraid of most other traditional methods of vampire-repellance (crosses, garlic, etc).


Other HMHVV-I Victims

Few specimens of infected metahumans besides vampires have been studied, but current medical theory is that a dwarf, an elf, an ork and a troll would become (respectively) a "goblin", a "banshee", a "wendigo" and a "dzoo-noo-qua" once infected with HMHVV-I.

All dwarves and trolls infected with HMHVV-I experience severe brain damage, reducing them to nearly animalistic intelligence. Infected dwarves lose all body hair and fat and retain only the communicative ability of jabbering. The infected troll loses all body hair and develops extensive bony outgrowths, covering its body with horns and plates. Both victims use the raw flesh of other metahumans as their ritual medium.

Similar in its ritual medium of metahuman flesh is the wendigo. The infected ork's most distinct physical transformation is the development of a thick coat of white body fur. As with human victims, the infected ork usually retains its mental acuity following the transformation.

Little is known about elf victims, no specimens of which have been captured for study. From the cursory observations collected, the banshee is not outwardly dissimilar from an HMHVV-negative elf. Its ability to instill terror with its wail and its lack of an obvious ritual medium like blood distinguish it from human vampires.


Ghouls

The most common strain of HMHVV apart from HMHVV-I is HMHVV-IV, also known as the Krieger strain. It is fatal to all infected metatypes but humans, who undergo a physical and astral transformation entirely different from the other infected.

Upon infection, the victim loses all body hair. The skin pales and becomes scabrous. Fingernails, atop elongated fingers, harden and become more prominent, as do the teeth. The eyes film over with cataracts, leaving the victim blind. Although the transformation often renders the victim insane or mindless, many ghouls retain human intelligence following the change.

What distinguishes ghouls from other HMHVV victims is that they feed on other metahumans not out of a need to replenish their astral forms but out of physical necessity: their virally-induced inability to synthesize important chemicals forces them to eat copious amounts of meat to survive (with sentient creatures apparently preferable as a food source).

The relatively large worldwide population of ghouls has led to the existence of several ghoul rights groups (including the remains of the Chicago ghoul nationalist movement), whose greatest success has so far been to convince the UCAS government to end the bounty it placed on the lives of all ghouls.


Treatment / Life with HMHVV

There is neither a cure nor an accepted system of treatment for victims of HMHVV. By the time physical symptoms have become apparent, it is too late for the infection to be treated -- and the methods of treatment before this time are largely unavailable to the public.

All victims of HMHVV suffer from the need to prey on fellow metahumans to survive; the stigma this creates, combined with their often serious deformities and debilitating allergies, make it difficult for victims to find their place in society. The tendency to form mutual support groups with other victims strengthens the suspicion of the existence of "vampire conspiracies", "goblin lairs" and the like in the general population.

All is not lost for the infected, however; the ghoul nation of Asamando, located in what was once northern Ghana, is a safe haven for all HMHVV victims with the resources and mental capacity to travel there. A vampire who works night shifts, drains energy from willing subjects and keeps to itself can lead a relatively fulfilling life. Advances in genetic restructuring, building on the 2052 perfection of "Leonization", show promise for curing late-stage HMHVV victims.



12/3/01 update: I had pieced this together from the vague bits of information scattered across several second-edition Shadowrun sourcebooks, unaware that actual details about the disease existed in the updated Shadowrun Companion. I think this is still OK, so no sense in taking it down (unless when I get the book it turns out it's all really, really wrong).

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