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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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).