Let's say terrorists wanted to release a bioweapon that could deal with most of the world's third world population, and they developed a chimera disease that was essentially the measles, but with lethality all the way up at 99.9999% lethal, Does this create a sufficient pandemic to make a world-altering, civilisation ending disease? Or will the world be able to respond quickly enough?

Bear in mind, anybody immune from the measles is likely to be immune from this virus as well.

EDIT: Came back to this after a long time and just WOW! :O It would seem we have some pretty good real world perspectives of what could play out with something like this, just a fair bit less lethal than my question.

Now that we ALL have a better handle on how people would in general respond, does anyone have new insights to offer, as this question is subtly different from our lived experience.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Your supermeasles would get the antivaxxers. But most people are immune to measles either because of vaccination or because they had it as a kid... $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ go with a new strain of smallpox, because it is extinct virtually no samples still exist, nor is the vaccine still common. Or just use a new zoonotic virus. works even better if the new source animal is an invasive species made popular by a movie. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 23:30

4 Answers 4


No, but it might wipe out more people from industrialised countries.

There was a recent study on immunization take up rates and trust in immunisation around the world (I don't have the link to hand but IIRC it was released about a year ago) which showed that the single greatest belief in and adoption of immunisation was occurring in the developing world. The developed nations were actually experiencing a decline in trust and take up rates.

Why? There's a very simple answer to this. People in developing nations have seen the consequences of Measles, Polio, Chicken Pox et al. They've got relatives or friends who have died from these diseases and they see first hand that immunisations are saving lives.

In developed nations, immunisation has been around for several generations and as such, people in these nations haven't seen what these diseases can do. For all intents and purposes, the diseases don't exist. So, when a pseudo-scientist tells them that vaccinations can cause autism or some other scare mongering falsehood, they have a skewed risk analysis insofar as they weigh this potential risk of the vaccination against what they see as an almost zero risk of infection without vaccination, because in their experience it never happens.

In some developed countries, faith in vaccinations has fallen to as little as 60%. In the developing world is consistently in the 90% range.

Bottom line is that if you could make such a virus, it's likely to backfire and wipe out a different group to that which you're targeting.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree, the third World is full of horror stories where the early Europeans introduced disease and whole communities perished. Now the World Health Organisation advises them and vaccination is mandatory and health services often go from family to family doing them. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 10:40


A lot of third world countries have a higher immunization rate than first world countries

See 113 countries have higher measles immunization rates than the U.S. for 1-year-olds

The lowest I can see is the Central African Republic which has an immunization rate of 25%. Next is Somalia at 46%

Now this is just the immunization rate. A lot will have already caught the disease and thus immune.

End result is most adults will be fine even in these poor countries so your bioweapon best chance is killing a bunch of kids at best.

A good flu season will kill more people.


Probably not. According to the World Bank, 86% of the world's population has received measles vaccines. Also, such a deadly disease might kill off any who get infected before they get the chance to transmit the virus. If you released the virus in some third world country, it might wipe out a village or neighborhood before just burning itself out.

However, there is no reason why the measles vaccine would necessarily make you immune to this disease. After all, having immunity to one strain of the flu does not protect you against other strains. Because of this, you could just handwave it and say that the old vaccines did not work against this engineered strain of measles or something like that.


Measles have been infecting and killing people for many centuries and many people now are immune to it or were vaccinated against it. By the way the measle vaccine is one of the first vaccines a baby takes after it is born here in Brazil.

A more rare virus with a more rare kind of infection or a wholly new virus created on lab( or a new bacteria, prion or a new kind of infectous agent or even nanobits) which nobody has ever been infected would make a far more interesting sci fi story.


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