Imagine, if you will, a cute baby cow at the beginning of its long, happy life on the farm.
Now imagine that it gets sick with something that makes it sweat blood, and that even the lightest touch causes a horrible wound as if your fingers were made of sharks. Despite giving the calves vitamins and blood clotting drugs, they all bleed out in a matter of days, leaving behind piles of goo and some seriously confused ranchers.
"Things just haven't been the same since my calves exploded."
The condition apparently turns the calves' marrow into gelatin and prevents the production of platelets and white blood cells, making them unable to form clots of any kind and leaving them wide open to infection.
There is no evidence that this is a disease in the traditional sense of the word.
Infected calves have been vaccinated against all kinds of bovine viruses and bacteria, even rare ones, with no luck. It has spread from Germany to Belgium, acting very much like a transmittable disease, but seems to lack anything tangible like a virus to blame.
"Maybe it's a mummy curse?" -Science
The main theory right now suggests that the baby cows are somehow developing an immunity to their own bone marrow. That's the kind of thing that just shouldn't happen in a body, like if your skull decides it wants to be "immune" from your brain.
It is hard to imagine that on a continent like Africa where AIDS, yellow fever and malaria rage out of control that there could be an illness that qualifies as "worse."
Enter Lujo and Ebola. They are both what are called "hemorrhagic fevers," which is a fancy way of saying they cause you to bleed to death inside your own skin. A related disease, Marburg, is also from Africa, making it the one continent with diseases that will liquefy your insides and make you cry blood.
And not in the figurative sense, either.
We have no idea how the virus is carried. It could be bats, monkeys, rats, flowers, mosquitoes or goddamn aliens. The problem seems to be that every time one of these diseases has an outbreak, they kill so fast and so thoroughly that scientists can't figure out where it came from.
"Not even I know, and I'm goddamned Morgan Freeman."
The first Ebola outbreak was in 1976 and struck with a 90 percent fatality rate, which is only slightly less than an elderly person driving their Honda through a farmer's market. Lujo is only known from a single incident that started in Zambia and moved to South Africa in 2008, killing the shit out of 80 percent of the people infected with it.
Leonardio DiCaprio was
unfortunately not harmed.
To bring things closer to home, there was an outbreak of a monkey-only version of Ebola in Reston, Virginia in November 1989. But the fact that it only killed monkeys doesn't necessarily mean we are in the clear--avian and swine flu didn't come from people either. And while we're on the subject, neither did ...
There are actually several diseases that are caused by prions, some of which you may never have heard of, like Kuru and Creutzfeldt (Jakob disease) and one most people have heard of, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease.
All prion diseases have something in common: They affect the central nervous system by essentially turning it into Swiss cheese. See, the prions make millions of tiny holes in your brain that grow larger and larger over time, eventually reducing your mind to a perforated slab of quivering lunacy.
All of these diseases can be transmitted, and if you remember back when England had its mad cow outbreak, they can leap from cow to human with no issue. The best part is that you can have it for up to four years before ever showing symptoms, and once you've got it, it is completely incurable. Also, in the case of meat infected with mad cow disease, prions are not "killed" by cooking, so you could burn an infected steak to charcoal and still wind up insane and dead.
As if being an incurable brain-shredding disease wasn't bad enough, no one knows where prions come from. They aren't a bacteria or even a virus. They are basically protein that has "gone bad" somehow, and it is entirely possible that our own bodies manufacture them by accident from time to time.
Like a piece of Orange Chicken that got way too crispy, only way worse.
So while contracting a disease from someone else who is infected sucks pretty bad already, prions are the one case where if you don't catch it from someone else, you might just develop it all on your own. Or not. Who knows?
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