Other questions about this are on this meta post.

Context (Updated with new information based on Q1, Q2)
In an act of war, an advanced, extraterrestrial species has designed the machina plague - an infectious nanobot pathogen - to wipe out the human race. They will release 10,000 nanobots on January 1st, 2017. Every bot will be located inside one nondescript, human host in Haneda Airport, Tokyo. Release will be at local time.


  • Bots do not effect the host directly after infection in order to reproduce.
  • Health effects occur gradually after required number of bots is reached. Reaching this number may take between 8 and 24 hours after infection. Symptoms reach a sustained peak approx. 30 minutes after the first symptoms occur.
  • Plague is both waterborne and airborne, but bots will only reproduce in human blood
  • Outside of the bloodstream they will survive for up to 48 hours before losing power and shutting down; they may be revived if re-introduced
  • Bots can permeate flesh to reach capillaries
  • Bots reproduce using iron, manganese, lead
  • Hosts infect the bloodstreams of other humans using fangs
  • Hosts may also come in contact with other hosts' skin, or release bots into the air through respiration
  • Only humans can be infected, but other animals may be prey to hosts
  • Bots coordinate with other hosts' bots in proximity; no attempts to infect hosts occur. This interaction is not "hive-mind" level

Host Changes:

  • Bots lobotomize the host brain; preserve feral instincts and locomotion
  • Bots reroute nutrients inside the body to form fangs, tubes
  • Hosts prey on live animals for blood (and for food), replenishing iron supplies, maintaining blood iron
  • New red blood cells are made periodically and in abundance
  • Bots repair host if injuries are deadly or life span is exceeded
  • Typical "pathogen" symptoms are suppressed if possible to avoid suspicion


  • Decapitation separates brain from body, meaning no acquiring food; bots eventually become dormant
  • Stake through the heart stops blood flow; organs die before bots remove stake, causing eventual death
  • Hosts hide from sunlight, which reveals the structures beneath their skin
  • Nanobot communication signals can be detected - identifying a host
  • Signals can be jammed, making hosts attack each other thinking they're more humans
  • Strong EMPS may quarantine large areas as a last resort

The third question in this series:
Assuming the scenario provided in the context is feasible, what measures must humans take to inhibit the spread of the plague; how can this be quarantined effectively? Cures will be discussed in the next question - please just focus on containment here.
Quarantine measures should be feasible, use relatively cheap technology and precautions, and should not integrate curing the disease.


1 Answer 1


There are two crucial factors in containing plague:

  1. Detection
  2. Containment

You said that communication signal can be detected. But you didn't specify the range. I assume only close inspection.

Global precautions

These would be applied in case of any plague with pandemic potential, all over the world (or let's hope so):

  • Travel ban. Shut it down to prevent long-distance contamination and new points of plague spread. No flights. No inter-city railways. Transport limited to food, medicine, and military. If longer ban is needed, it'll be extended to support basic needs like trash removal, hygiene etc.

  • Curfew. If sick avoid daylight, do not let anyone but military go outside when it's dark

  • Gates calibration / change. You know metal detector gates in airports? Ot anti-theft gates in shops? If possible, these would be used to detect infected. After all, what anti-theft gate in shop does is detecting electronic signals, so if we are lucky, we can routinely scan a huge part of population using almost-ready technology

Where it's too late

  • Nuclear explosions high in atmosphere. Cheap, in a way, because there is stock of nuclear warheads that can be used for this. Little pollution, strong EMP

  • military cordon - good old way to quarantine a city. Set up gates. Everywhere else there should be a kill zone, wide enough for the soldiers to remain safe. On gates, only allow one inhabitant at time, to get scanned and moved do outer quarantine area (area for those you think are OK but keep quarantined anyway), to pick up full food truck or give back an empty one, things like that.

  • mine fields - this is cheap and mostly illegal, because international treaties assume it's humans we are fighting. Mine that only explodes if it detects nanobots' signal would be cheap and effective way to protect perimeter without killing "clean" humans.

  • slaughter and freeze / dehydrate - you do not want to have vast supply of animals. Wild animals wouldn't be rich source of food anyway (we are soooo good at slaughtering them, lucky we), but you need to get rid of farms. Infected needs blood, so just store frozen or dried meat without blood.

  • scan everyone - scan soldiers when they are returning to barracks from their shift. Scan them when they are departing. scan them when they go for food and if possible, but a scanner in their collar so they are monitored 24/7 because you absolutely can't afford them to get infected without notice. In the "supposedly clean" camp, scan anyone routinely, too.


Plague is a plague. You quarantine just as you always do. Nothing really new here.


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