The disease leading to the pandemic around year 0 was called "the Rash illness", or "the Rash" for short. In the year 90, people refer to "the Great Illness" or "the Illness" when talking about the primary infection they fear. It is not yet clear whether these actually are, or at some point were, the same disease.
Relation to Other Effects in the Post-Rash World Edit
The exact reason for the (re?)emergence of magic is still unknown. Cats seem to sometimes interact with mages in a way different from other humans, but not to the point of suggesting that mages are actually afflicted by the Illness. Apart from helping protect other humans from Illness and monsters, mages understand their duties to include caring for the unfortunate souls trapped in the monsters. Protection of humans against the Illness itself, however, is trusted to technological means like masks, hazmat suits, disinfectants, quarantine and the like, and further to heightening the percentage of immune people through the "Dagrenning genetic program".
Symptoms and Course of the Disease Edit
So far, there has been no outright confirmation whether the Rash and the Illness are fully or partially the same thing. If so, the properties of the Rash would, of course, apply to the Illness as well. It can be assumed that infection is a prerequisite to having humans and animals turn into trolls and beasts, though.
On , Mikkel states that even the remains of those who "just" died from the Illness "have plenty of prominent identifiers, most notably calcified tissue remains and deformities of the joints". He continues to add that small deformities of the bones are typical even for those who died of other causes during a "relatively early stage" of the Illness.
In Amalienborg and Kastellet, people who have died in year 0 and likely were treated with some experimental drug seem to have (died and) changed into ghosts; the exact mechanisms are entirely unclear so far. However, the number of ghosts does seem to match the total of patients who have died in the place, whereas only a certain percentage would have avoided "normal" death to become trolls.
, he also provides information about the Illness' transmission; namely, that the only two ways it can enter a host are open, skin-piercing wounds and the respiration tract. Superficial scratches, the mucous membranes around the eyes, and the possibility of a mask not always having an airtight fit against the face do not qualify as a concern to him even when the pathogen is confirmed present.
Chances are, however, that masks not being required to cover the entire face are artistic license taken for the purpose of not being forced to make non-immune characters' facial expressions invisible throughout most of the dramatic scenes.
The exact nature of the host exuding the pathogen has a certain, limited influence on the infection risk, too. "Common trolls and beasts", and thus the majority of grosslings, need to make direct contact to a non-immune human to infect him - hence, infection from those typically takes the form of bite wounds. Only trolls and humans can infect others at a distance, the three known variants being
- rare trolls that can breathe out the pathogen in such a form that infection can occur up to a meter away, recognizable by their breathing making wheezing sounds.
- humans(!) which have the Illness currently incubating in their bodies. This prompts the pathogen to change into a "less destructive, but more airborne form" that can result in infections in a three meter radius.
- (obviously even rarer) trolls who can spit infectious secretions at victims across a distance of up to ten meters.
In any case, the presence of monsters entails a clear and present danger of infection to non-immune people and prompts countermeasures, e.g., the first reaction to the giant breaching the Dalahästens hull was to hand breathing masks to the non-immune passengers.
Decontamination Procedures Edit
Maximum Security Edit
In cases where all risk of infection needs to be avoided, the available choices are total isolation - case in point, everyone working together with Siv at her former employer wore full hazmat gear - or delaying transition to the safe side for the Illness' incubation period of two weeks. It is being suggested, though not explicitly stated, that the mandatory two-weeks quarantine period to enter the island of Sollerön (a.k.a. Inner Mora) applies to immune travelers as well.
Medium Security Edit
Outer Mora, on the other hand, allows people arriving by train - and, thus, from reasonably safe areas - to enter after undergoing a thorough, but nonetheless superficial disinfection in the decontamination facility. They are required to take showers involving strong jets of water with additives, and their clothes and luggage are being inspected (and supposedly disinfected as well) by squads of workers in hazmat suits and cats.
As an interesting sidenote, a similar procedure is applied to the Dalahästen as a whole after its arrival at the Öresundsbro base, but the terminal at neither end of this particularly dangerous train line seems to even possess a decontamination facility for the passengers, unlike the Mora station for the "normal" trains.In the beginning of chapter 7, Lalli gets a more thorough decontamination which also includes and water, rather than the minimum procedure described in the next section. According to the author's comments, while we can see some sort of detergent being used, they have to make do with jets of cold water to reach acceptable flow (while the water in the tub used for rinsing has been heated).
Minimum Security Edit
Due to restricted space and budget, Mikkel demonstrated what procedure is barely "good enough" to make Lalli, returning from scout duty in Silent Lands, reasonably safe for getting into contact with his non-immune cousin Tuuri again. He was sprayed - not hosed down - with some disinfecting agent, his outer garments stripped (and put into a UV-based disinfection chamber), and then sprayed again, with special attention to getting the spray all over his hair; all this time, Tuuri stood nearby wearing her expedition clothes and a breathing mask, but no further protection for her hands or face.
Mikkel also commented that a similar disinfecting effect on Lalli could have been achieved by making him stand in the sunlight (of almost-winter Denmark) "for an hour".
Medical Research Edit
Due to the importance of the Illness on everyday lives post-Rash, funding and other resources are still being assigned to researching possible vaccines and cures in spite of 90 years of failure to come up with either. Before Torbjörn came up with the idea of the expedition, his wife Siv used to work at such a research facility, and we are shown an on one candidate they submitted for review.
Needless to say, when it became apparent that the Rash was turning into an apocalyptic pandemic, the governments of year 0 poured significant resources into research as well. They obviously did not achieve an all-out-success, either, but that doesn't preclude the possibility of partially working attempts that the expedition may discover in the Silent World. Right now, Mikkel and (to the extent he lets her) Tuuri are tracing the origin of what seems to be an experimental drug given to patients in Copenhagen - not knowing that the patients did not only die nonetheless, but formed vengeful ghosts. However, said drug seems to have been produced in Odense, which they are about to arrive at ...