Riddles – What disease am I?


  1. “I am a naughty boy. First, I lead to papules, then vesicles and, by the second day, pustules. By the sixth or seventh day, you will be positively covered in pustules, sharply raised and typically round, tense, and firm. the pustules are deeply embedded, with fluid slowly leaking out from them. Everything was going swimmingly, and by 1790 or so, I could boast such illustrious infectees as George Washington, Anne of Cleves and Edward VI, but sadly a vaccine – the first ever vaccine – was invented for me in 1796, and life hasn’t been the same since. If I could murder all those milk maids, I surely would.”
  2. “I am a nasty fucker, virally zoonotic and impressively fatal. I cause nearly 60,000 deaths a year, most of which are in Asia and Africa. While my incubation period can be very long, and unpredictable (1 week to 1 year), you will eventually get to know me by the fatal inflammation of your brain and spinal cord. Yummy.”
  3. “I am a respiratory syndrome caused by a coronavirus – topical!!! – and I first came on the scene in Feb ’03. It was a season of love, for me, because I managed to spread to two dozen countries on 4 continents—sounds good to me! Unfortunately I only managed to kill 774 people, which isn’t quite as good as my Middle Eastern little brother, but that’s OK because it’s better than nothing.”
  4. “rarediseases.org defines me as ‘a condition characterised by gross enlargement of an area of the body, especially the limbs’, but I think that’s rather unfair, because John Hurt looked great when he played me in that film by David.”
  5. “I am very good at being a disease, except for the fact that I cannot be contracted through contact with an infected person. You might say that’s a death knell for this ailment, however, I have my friends the Plasmodium parasites to help me out. They are rather good at their job. I also have the Anopheles to thank. as a team, we kill more humans than humans do. Brilliant.”


  1. Smallpox
  2. Rabies
  3. Sars
  4. Elaphantiasis
  5. Malaria
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