The Virtual Plague That Predicted A Real Pandemic

In 2005, an infectious disease killed thousands all over the world — World of Warcraft, that is. Even though it wasn’t real, the Corrupted Blood Incident has been used a model for real pandemics — including this one.

Matt J Weber 🦢
6 min readAug 12, 2020


Scientists traced the origin of the plague to the vast and remote jungles of Stranglethorn Vale. The outbreak began in the troll city of Zul’Gurub, unknowingly carried back to the four corners of Azeroth by brave bands of unstoppable heroes. They may be some of the mightiest warriors in all the land, but they were not immune to this plague. They had contracted it while vanquishing the fearsome Blood God, Hakkar the Soulflayer. Soon much of the realm would be infected with Corrupted Blood. Untold numbers would die.

The scientists observed with great fascination that the disease did not remain localized within the lair of the Blood God, as it should have been. Cases soon emerged in the dense population centers of Azeroth. It swept through packed marketplaces, ale houses, and inns — leaving the streets littered with the bones of the dead.

Curiously, teleportation greatly increased the disease’s reach. In an instant, a level 50 Dwarf Warrior could bring the disease from the isolated and abandoned city of Zul’Gurub to the bustling urban center of Ironforge. From there, any race the dwarf came in close contact with could be infected, from elf to orc to human, regardless of allegiance. But large portions of the population would experience no ill effects from the disease and carry the infection without displaying any symptoms whatsoever. Yet they could still expose everyone they came into contact with.

The scientists calculated a startlingly high basic reproductive rate for the disease. A single carrier could infect something on the order of 1000 individuals every hour. By comparison, measles — one of the most infectious diseases on planet Earth — has a reproductive rate of about 18.

Not only was the disease highly contagious, it was also extremely deadly.

A level 50 Dwarf Warrior could shake off the disease with little ill effects, but a level 5 Rogue would have…