Did A 1981 Book Really Predict The Novel Coronavirus?

A twitter user has recently found out that American author Dean Koontz has (allegedly) predicted the novel Coronavirus outbreak back in 1981. The tweet features the cover of the book “The Eyes of Darkness” and a page in which the author supposedly describes the Coronavirus. This controversial theory has gone viral on social media, with around 40,000 shares on Facebook and 2,000 retweets.

The wild claims circulating on social media show the book’s cover and a page, mentioning a virus called “Wuhan-400”. This page includes some highlighted text reading:

“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 center”.

Some posts on social media also include an additional page that mentions a “severe pneumonia-like illness” outbreak happening in the year 2020.

But is this real? Let’s see…


The Facts

It is true that Koontz wrote about a fictional disease in his novel, and that its name (“Wuhan-400”) refers to the exact Chinese city in which the novel Coronavirus outbreak actually started. However, this is the only similarity that the fictional disease shares with the recent, and very real, virus.


In the novel, Koontz describes “Wuhan-400” as “China’s most important and dangerous: new biological weapon in a decade”, and it was also developed by labs outside Wuhan.

In real life, there’s no proof (at least not yet) of the new virus being man-made. Experts believe the virus to have originated in a food market in the Chinese city, which was illegally selling wildlife. They also think it may have originated in bats and passed to humans, most likely via another species.


The behavior of the book’s “Wuhan-400” virus is also quite different from the novel Coronavirus. In the book, the virus has an incubation period of “only four hours”, where the real one has between 1-14 days. According to the WHO, the most common incubation time has been of around 5 days.

Death Rate

The fictional “Wuhan-400” is also described as a disease with a kill-rate of 100%. “Once infected, no one lives more than twenty-four hours. Most die in twelve”, Koontz writes. The novel Coronavirus’ death rate is far from that, with the fatality rate laying between 2%-4% in Wuhan, and 0.7% outside of Wuhan.


Regarding symptoms, the fictional “Wuhan-400” causes the secretion of a “toxin that literally eats away brain tissue”, causing loss of control of bodily function. “The victim simply ceases to have a pulse, functioning organs, or any urge to breathe.” In real life, Coronavirus’s infections have a wide, and different, range of symptoms, going from fever to coughing, shortness of breath and breathing problems. Mild cases can cause cold-like symptoms, while the more severe cause pneumonia, kidney failure, severe acute respiratory illness, and eventually death.

And the differences are not over…


In the book, “Wuhan-400” is often described as being “infinitely worse” than Ebola, while the real-life Coronavirus is way less threatening. According to the WHO, the average Ebola fatality rate is around 50%, and we have already seen that in the novel Coronavirus it lies between 2%-4% in Wuhan and 0.7% outside.

First Edition is Russian City

Another thing that the social media posts forget to mention is that in the first edition of Koontz novel “The Eyes of Darkness”, published in 1981, the fictional disease was not named after the now infamous Chinese city, but after a Russian place called “Gorki” (Gorki-400) instead. In the original story, the virus was developed outside Gorki, and it was supposed to be the “Soviet’s most important, dangerous new biological weapon in the decade”. The name of the virus was then changed to the Chinese city at the end of the cold war, on the re-release of the book in 1989.

The Other Page

The third image shared on some of the posts on social media depicts a book page without any attribution, and it wrongly suggests people that it is part of the same book. It reads: “In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments”.

This page does not belong to “The Eyes of Darkness”, but it comes from a book called “End of Days: Predictions and prophecies about the end of the world” by Sylvia Brown, an American author who claims to be a psychic. It was published in 2008, which makes it, still, mind-blowing.

So, as you can see, Dean Koontz did write about a fictional disease called “Wuhan-400” in the 1989 re-release of his 1981 novel “The Eyes of Darkness”, but the origin city of the virus is the only thing it has in common with the novel Coronavirus. The third page included in some posts is from a different book.


All images from @nepmutiva via Twitter.

Written by Ricky Spanish

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