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So this bioweapon is a genetically-engineered microscopic parasite used by a certain government in a sort of revolution-turned-war. It works by making its host more paranoid, stressed and non-trusting by altering the chemicals the host's brains produce. Kind of like biologically contagious fear, or the opposite of toxoplasmosis. Long story short, it's used to ruin trust between people, and cause them to act irrationally.
It can survive a pretty long time outside of a host, as long as there is a lot of water. It is capable of shutting itself down in extreme cold, so it can be frozen and then thawed out again and still function. The thing it is most weak to is dehydration and heat. This means if the host is submitted to extreme, near-death levels of dehydration, it is possible the pathogen will be killed. It is meant for use in cold, cramped environments such as space-bound colonies or ships [this is a spacefaring civilisation].
I feel like it would help to have it as little physically symptomatic as possible, to make it harder to pick out who is infected and who isn't, but it still needs to spread somehow. Currently in the story, it's transmitted through tears, and other bodily fluids [but especially tears] but I feel like spreading it through tears would be too difficult.
So, basically I'm trying to come up with a way this bioweapon could spread that is both weird but also plausible.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding, please read our help center to better understand our community. The symptoms have nothing to do with how a pathogen spread, and you said nothing about the pathogen itself to help us answer your question. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 5:58
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    $\begingroup$ How is it transmitted? How long does it survive in different conditions? Those are the parameter that determine how to spread it effectively. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ We recommend that answers are not accepted 'til 24-48 hours after the question is asked, otherwise it discourages our international readership from publishing additional (perhaps better) answers. You can withdraw and re-award the accepted tick at any time. (If you like an answer, you can upvote it too). $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 7:09
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    $\begingroup$ Based solely on the question title, I thought you were referring to Facebook :D $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ Cable or satellite TV? $\endgroup$
    – edgerunner
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 6:24

4 Answers 4

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It looks like your pathogen can be easily spread through contaminated waters, the same way cholera can be spread.

For example an infected person could pollute a drinking water storage and/or not wash their hands after using the toilet, easily spreading the contagion.

This could also easily fit in the symptoms you describe, of the infected acting irrationally.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hey this fits pretty well, and water-borne diseases have been pretty bad in human history before. Thankyou! $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 7:36
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    $\begingroup$ To add to this: the gut has an enormous effect of the psyche of organisms. The flora and fauna in the intestines can semi-control many desires and states. Cravings for certain foods, as the largest bacteria groups thrive in that, as well as certain moods that will be more prevalent. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ It could also be a virus, like the polio. Part of the vaccination strategy in countries that use the Sabin vaccine actually rely on this for building up immunity additionally to the herd immunity - the yearly vaccination campaigns flood the water system with non-pathogenic copies of the virus, flushing whatever pathogenic copies there could be out $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ It would not spread like cholera on a spaceship. Cholera's main vector was water contaminated by feces. Spaceships need to have incredibly sophisticated water purification technologies to be able to recycle water. A biological agent wouldn't make it through the filter. Not washing hands is much more plausible. $\endgroup$
    – Zags
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, the purification system would probably be too advanced come to think of it. But the infected acting irrationality [maybe even with malicious intent?] and that leading to transmission is an idea I like. $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 21:19
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By internet!

Why do you need microscopic parasites, when there are social networks with specially engineered (using machine learning, tracking and behavioural studies) news feed that makes readers demotivated/frustrated/unhappy/paranoid/addicted to news feed reading/(insert desired emotion here), and nearly everybody have mobile device with access to this networks?

Via bloodsucking insects!

But if you still want to transmit some artificial microbes, why don't you use mosquitoes? They are already perfect in transferring malaria. Also mosquitoes eggs and larvae lives in water. Even in cold climate mosquitoes can survive in flooded under ground structures below buildings.

Or, if climate is cold, and people live in densely populated cities, we can use fleas. They already spread plague.

Via aquatic algae or bacteria, which generates toxin!

There are a lot of types of algae/bacteria, including ones, producing dangerous toxins. In real life this toxins can be easily deactivated by boiling, salting, adding clorine, etc... But what if toxins producing microbes are durable? So, even if you clean water, it can be recontaminated one more time. And microbes could even live in human bodies, producing toxins present in bodily fluids, including tears.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is actually pretty cool. Thankyou for the contribution :) $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 7:34
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking of even having a chlorine-rich setting, so maybe it could even have a good relationship with chlorine? Some microbes do produce it. $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 21:11
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The infected want to transmit it.

They know how. You learn how once you are infected. That is part of how the parasite works. The uninfected don't know and the infected won't tell. It is actually really difficult to prove a person is infected and requires microscopic examination of the brain, as is done in cases of rabies.

There are rumors. Transmission might have to do with coffee, or cookies. Maybe the smell of coffee. It might have to do with certain tones produced while talking, or a smile that shows some teeth. It might be from stray hairs that fall off the infected and float in the breeze. Infected people might have a pimple that gives off spores. It might be that the infected can think the infection into other people. They don't even have to be in the same place. They just have to know you and know you are not infected.

The uninfected need to stay vigilant, and protect themselves. Somehow.

[there is no infection. it is make believe] THAT'S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK!!

[you are paranoid because you are already infected] NOOOOO

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  • $\begingroup$ I love this answer. The idea of wanting to infect others is so cool. $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Sprout This is kind of on the same vein as rabies and biting. You're compelled into infectious behavior (biting, in the case of rabies) which fits really well with a mind-altering disease. If fact, the disease sounds a lot like rabies. mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rabies/symptoms-causes/… $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the link! I based the disease off things like rabies and toxiplasmosis :) $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ So there is no actual virus, but the knowledge that there could be a virus and we don't know how it's transmitted is the virus! You see people are starting to act irrationally... to protect yourself from them you start acting irrationally... you don't warn others because you're afraid they could be infected and know you're onto them... $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ @user253751 - you got it. The "virus" is an infectious meme. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 15:25
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The thing to remember about contagious pathogens is that they tend to have non-human reservoir species. Be they viruses (COVID-19 came from somewhere) or parasites (malaria transmitted by mosquitoes).

If you want a nightmarish animal vector, look no further than the recently-returned bed bug. Nearly eradicated in the middle part of the 20th century (no one knows why, though likely the now-banned DDT), people whose homes have become infested with them constantly lament the torment the insects cause and the extremes to which they were forced to go to rid themselves of the devilish bugs.

This would be bad enough, if you were talking about planetside transmission. You go to a hotel, stay for a night, and bring your suitcase back home... they've hitched a ride in the thing. Now your home has them. People take clothing with them where ever they go, even into space. In the future, a bed bug adapted to zero gravity (or one that just learns to stay put long enough to get its gravity back) would have people traveling in the nude or burning all their belongings before they were allowed off the ship or something.

They're bad enough by themselves. They tend to make people paranoid by themselves. Add your pathogen into the mix, and this becomes true nightmare fuel (quite literally given the effects of the pathogen).

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  • $\begingroup$ This is pretty horrific. I like it! $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 21:19

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