Transmission & Vectors
The nanophage is digitally transmitted, though how easily this occurs varies strain to strain. Most commonly, it is transmitted via downloaded data, similarly to most other computer viruses.
The Nanophage (or, simply, “The Phage”) itself is a small, highly variable, and usually self-replicating piece of code that embeds itself in existing programming, potentially interfering with normal routines or triggering aberrant functions.
A type of self-replicating nanite is incorporated into all implants to help integrate the mechanical components into host tissue and body systems, and prevent immune system rejection. However, these nanites appear to be especially susceptible to the effects of the nanophage.
Due to the varying programmes of each virus strain, symptoms can vary, but most commonly manifest initially as software glitches in the implants themselves (not an uncommon problem to begin with), slowly progressing to accumulation of scar tissue around implants, problems with immune system rejection of the implants, and chronic inflammation and immunosuppression, as the nanites “defend” the implants. It is also relatively common for the nanophage to disrupt the programming of the nanites that suppresses their replication once a certain density is reached, leading to progressive overgrowth in a similar fashion to cancerous tumor cells, causing at first tissue inflammation and then necrosis as host cells are deprived of nutrients or physically damaged, necessitating surgical debridement. Consequently, a wide range of symptoms can result, depending on the location of the implant and the tissue affected. Somewhat ironically, many victims turn to new implants to replace the lost tissue.
Early symptoms are generally mild and easily mistaken for other, less serious ailments, and a contagious incubation period of months to decades takes place before more obvious effects become evident. In some cases, progression to these later stages never takes place, the patient effectively acting as an asymptomatic carrier.
Many (Republic) legally-sanctioned implants, including mandatory identification chips, contain transponders that allow location monitoring. Though this has never been divulged, suspicions that this is the case have led to an increase in the use of illegally-manufactured implants, and it may be that the nanophage was originally designed to shut down these rogue devices, but it now attacks almost any computer system indiscriminately and not in the originally-intended fashion. The government has always denied knowledge of the origins of the phage.
There is at present no known way to treat the nanophage. Though a number of quack cures have been claimed, none have so far proven effective.
The nanophage is incurable. Due to its highly variable symptoms, patients may be forced to endure debilitating symptoms to the end of their natural lives, while a large proportion die prematurely due to the effects of the phage.
Less than 3% of the population of the Fifth Republic is known to be infected, but it is not clear how many more asymptomatic carriers exist.
A stigma has developed around the nanophage, owing to the (only partially inaccurate) perception that it is commonly contracted through the use of illegal digital material and implants, and fears owing to the ease of its spread.
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