Did a 1981 Dean Koontz novel predict the Wuhan coronavirus?

A 1981 novel wrote about a 'Wuhan-400' bioweapon designed in Wuhan

coronavirus-microscope-ncov-covid19-NIAID-RML-AP This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S | NIAID-RML via AP

An excerpt from a 1981 fiction thriller has caught the eye of internet users, after it seems to predict the emergence of the Covid-19 ‘coronavirus’ from Wuhan.

“They call the stuff “Wuhan-400” because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside of the city of Wuhan and it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at that research centre,” reads an excerpt from the novel The Eyes of Darkness by Dean Koontz.

The excerpt swiftly gained attention, building on the existing fear around the coronavirus, which largely originated in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province.

Adding to the eerie coincidence is the existence of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China’s only level-four biosafety lab—the current highest-level of biosafety precaution. Such labs are used to handle highly infectious contagions like those that cause smallpox or ebola. The presence of the WIV just 30km from the city of Wuhan had already sparked conspiracy theories that the virus was a Chinese bioweapon.

However, the symptoms of the virus described in Koontz’s novel are different from those of the now-viral coronavirus. The Wuhan-400 is not as contagious as the coronavirus, being able to survive outside of the human body for only a minute, and perishing with the body of the host.

“Wuhan-400 is a perfect weapon. It afflicts only human beings. No other living creature can carry it. And like syphilis, Wuhan-400 can’t survive outside a living human body for longer than a minute, which means it can’t permanently contaminate objects or entire places the way anthrax and other virulent microorganisms can. And when the host expires, the Wuhan-400 within him perishes a short while later, as soon as the temperature of the corpse drops below eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit,” reads another excerpt from the novel.

The author has yet to respond to the renewed interest his book has attracted.

In comparison, it is not known for how long the coronavirus can survive outside of a human host. However, other coronaviruses have been known to linger on surfaces for up to nine days. The coronavirus itself, at present, has been only confirmed to spread on a person-to-person basis, though there are fears that one can get it from infected surfaces or foods; these are as yet unconfirmed.

China has placed 780 million people under travel restrictions, as the coronavirus has now infected 72,438 people in the country, leading to 1,874 deaths overall. Most of the deaths that have occured so far have taken place in China.