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Up to date as of February 07, 2010
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The Sickness is an unknown illness believed to exist on the Island. Its presence was first revealed to the survivors by Danielle Rousseau although her account was somewhat vague and contradictory. Despite these inconsistencies, however, other evidence found on the Island and revealed later in the series seems to support some elements of her story.

To date, none of the survivors has contracted the Sickness.

Contents

Danielle Rousseau

Rousseau explains about her early time on the Island ("Solitary")

Danielle's account to Sayid and, later, Hurley is somewhat confused and contradictory. This is possibly due to the trauma she experienced surrounding the death of her team, the abduction of her daughter, and living alone on the Island for some 16 years.

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Danielle's account

According to Danielle, her research team lived for some two months on the Island before locating the radio tower up near the Black Rock. She explained that her team was on their way back when there was some kind of encounter wherein they contracted the Sickness. Danielle declared: "It was them. They were the carriers. The Others." She later claimed, however, that she has never seen anyone else on the Island, only heard their whispers in the jungle.

Her team returned to their shelter on the beach, and it was some time after when "the sickness came." Rousseau described the Sickness striking one after the other -- and she was forced to shoot and kill her entire team as they were already lost. Danielle justified her actions: "What would have happened if we were rescued? I couldn't let that happen." She also noted some kind of confrontation or stand-off occurred with Robert, her lover. He failed to notice the firing pin was missing in his rifle just before she shot him.

Danielle never described the nature or symptoms of the Sickness and her advice to Sayid was only that he should watch the other survivors carefully. ("Solitary")  ("Numbers")

Radio tower transmission

After the death of her team, Danielle recounted that she went back up to the radio tower and changed the transmission. Some sixteen years later, the same transmission was picked up by the survivors of the crash of Oceanic 815. Only partially translated by Shannon, the full recorded message also indicated that Danielle was trapped inside the radio tower and something or someone outside had "killed them all". She also mentions not having a key, adding that Brennan took them. ("Pilot, Part 2")

A "sick" Robert tries to reassure Danielle.

Events in Season 5

November 1988

After the Island "moved", a time-shifting Jin floating in the ocean was rescued by a young pregnant Danielle Rousseau and her science team. On landing on the Island, the team picked up the original transmission from the radio tower and were on their way there when they were attacked by The Monster. In the attack, Nadine was killed and Montand lost an arm when the Monster pulled him down into a dark opening beneath the Temple wall. Moments afterwards, Montand's voice could be heard from below calling out for help, claiming the Monster had released him. The entire research team, excepting Rousseau and Jin, descended into the opening and disappeared. Moments later a time-flash occurred, and Jin moved on. Danielle apparently saw Jin disappear right in front of her. ("This Place Is Death")

Jin stands over the bodies of Brennan and Lacombe, both "carriers" of the sickness

January 1989

At an unspecified point in time, likely somewhere in early 1989, Jin returned to the beach where he found the science team's makeshift camp. On arriving he found the bodies of two members of the team, Lacombe and Brennan, who appeared to have been killed relatively recently. Hearing raised voices, he discovered a confrontation going on nearby between Robert and a hysterical Danielle. She accused Robert of being sick and suggested he had been changed somehow by the Monster and was no longer himself. Robert pleaded for Danielle to calm down and trust him, saying he loved her. When she lowered her gun, however, Robert attempted to shoot her but the gun did not fire. Danielle responded by shooting Robert in the head. Spotting Jin nearby, Danielle turned the gun on him - blaming him for being infected and that he was "the carrier." Nearly getting shot himself, Jin escaped into the jungle moments before another time-flash occurred. Montand's fate is unknown. ("This Place Is Death")

Later in 1989

At some point later in 1989, Ben was ordered by Charles Widmore to kill Danielle. On entering her shelter on the beach in the middle of the night, Ben was surprised to find Danielle with her newborn baby daughter, Alex. Instead of carrying out his original mission, Ben elected to kidnap Alex and let Danielle live. As he was leaving the tent, Danielle accused Ben: "You're the one who infected us, aren't you?" Ben responded by telling her never to come looking looking for Alex if she wanted to live and to run the other way if she ever heard whispers. ("Dead Is Dead")

Interpretation

Sickness characteristics

As implied in "This Place is Death," the Sickness manifests as a severe mental change on the part of the afflicted. From Danielle's perspective, Robert - appearing sane, normal and healthy - suddenly and uncharacteristically attempted to kill her. Rousseau suggests that it was The Monster who changed her team in some way after they disappeared into the opening beneath the Temple. It is not clear if she believes her team members were being controlled, or whether the Monster changed their personality and/or character in some way. If true, this would raise the question as to whether or not the Sickness is truly a disease in the strictest sense - and also whether Robert and the rest of the science team were in complete control of their own actions.

However, lacking reliable information on what happened during the two months between Jin's first and second visit to the research team, a good case could also be made that Danielle is the one who went insane. Robert may have been acting in self-defense, protecting himself from a woman who had already killed the rest of his team. Just before his death he asks Danielle: "Why are you acting this way?" ("This Place Is Death") Upon kidnapping Alex and taking her to the Others' camp, Ben describes Danielle as insane. ("Dead Is Dead") Years later in talking to the mercenaries Ben again refers to Danielle as "an insane woman", possibly implying that Danielle was crazy even before her sixteen years alone on the Island ("The Shape of Things to Come") Later, Sayid also describes the notations on Danielle's maps as the ravings of a disturbed mind. ("Numbers")

In an official podcast the LOST producers describe the Sickness as making people go crazy.

Carriers

Rousseau describes the Others as being "the carriers" of the Sickness, although in "This Place is Death," it is implied that her entire team contracted the Sickness from the Monster after venturing beneath the Temple. Rousseau claimed, however, to have lived on the Island for some two months before the Sickness took hold - suggesting it may have spread, unnoticed, through her group for a time. Rousseau accuses both Jin and, later, Ben as being carriers for the disease. ("This Place Is Death")  ("Dead Is Dead")

Other references to sickness on the Island

There are a number of references to sickness on the Island throughout the series. Most of these references appear to concern a physical illness - with a possible exception being the "cabin fever" experienced by those on board the "Kahana."

Staff doctor applying vaccines ("The Man Behind the Curtain")

The DHARMA Initiative

The Vaccine

Main article: Vaccine

In the 1970s, the DHARMA Initiative took precautions in innoculating new recruits arriving on the Island. ("The Man Behind the Curtain")  ("Namaste")

Years later, the Swan station was seen to contain an ample supply of the vaccine. The Swan was similarly equipped with HAZMAT suits allowing the station occupants to venture outside. When asked why he was wearing one, Kelvin responded: "So I don't get sick." Desmond learned later, however, that Kelvin had been creating an elaborate deception about the precautions required to go outside, and that the protective suit was unnecessary. Desmond's mural also contains the enigmatic phrase: "I am sick." ("Man of Science, Man of Faith")  ("Live Together, Die Alone")

The word quarantine on the Hatch door ("Man of Science, Man of Faith")

Later, a case containing a number of vials of the same vaccine was found on the pallet as part of the resupply drop. ("Three Minutes")

Quarantine warnings

Main article: Quarantine

Both entrances of The Swan station had the word "QUARANTINE" stenciled on the inside. The entrance of The Arrow also had an identical warning stenciled on the inside of the doors. The significance of these warnings is unknown. ("Man of Science, Man of Faith")  ("The Other 48 Days").

Claire suspected that Aaron might have the sickness in "Maternity Leave"

The Others

Several actions taken by the Others appear to suggest the presence of a sickness on the Island.

Claire's abduction

Main article: Pregnancy

After her abduction, Claire was taken to The Staff where she was given a number of injections by Ethan. The injection appeared to be the same DHARMA Initiative administered vaccine, in this case administered directly to Claire's baby in-utero. Later, Claire recalls a partial conversation with Ethan where he suggests that she cannot stay with the Others, as they do not possess enough vaccine for both her and the baby. ("Maternity Leave")

Juliet later describes that Claire was given a serum during the time of her abduction to help her survive the pregnancy. It is unknown if Juliet was telling the truth here or if this was just part of a cover story to win the survivors' trust. ("One of Us")

Blood Samples

The Others have been observed taking blood samples from the survivors. For instance, a blood sample was taken from Michael when he was captured. ("Three Minutes") On another occasion, Jack, Kate, and Sawyer all had band-aids on their arms, suggesting a sample had been taken, when they awoke on the Hydra Island. ("A Tale of Two Cities") The purpose of taking these samples is unknown.

Aaron

Aaron also contracted an illness with a high fever in episode "Maternity Leave". Claire worried that it was the same sickness that Rousseau's team had contracted. Aaron recovered on his own within a couple of days.

Claire's implant

Later in Season 3, Claire developed a mysterious illness and collapsed, bleeding from the nose. Juliet claimed that while Claire was at The Staff, she was given a serum to prevent her from dying during her pregnancy. Juliet further claimed that Claire's immune system had turned on her due to a latent reaction to medication in her bloodstream. It was later revealed in a flashback, however, that the Others had placed an implant within Claire that could be triggered remotely as a ruse, thereby creating a problem for Juliet to solve and use as a means of ingratiating herself with the survivors. Ben explained to Juliet that once the implant was activated Claire would become "symptomatic" in 48 hours. How much of Juliet's original account is true is uncertain. ("One of Us")

"Cabin Fever"

Main article: Temporal displacement

While stationed offshore of the Island, a number of crew members aboard the "Kahana" began to experience what Captain Gault described as a "heightened case of cabin fever." He theorizes that their aberrant behavior had something to do with remaining too long in close proximity of the Island. It is likely this is somehow related to the Island's strange time discrepancy with the outside world.

One instance of the "cabin fever" occurred when Brandon and George Minkowski took the Zodiac to have a look at the Island but were forced to turn back when Brandon started acting erratically. George notes Brandon died later, but does not explain how. ("The Constant"). Regina seemingly exhibits the illness when she is found unknowingly reading a book upside-down. Then later, she commits suicide by jumping overboard with a chain wrapped around her. ("Ji Yeon")

Other examples include Sayid and Desmond hearing an unidentified individual banging on the pipes in another part of the ship, a large bloodstain on the wall of one of the cabins, ("Ji Yeon") and two crew members trying to steal the ship's Zodiac raft. ("Meet Kevin Johnson")

Captain Gault suggests Keamy, now beginning to act increasingly aggressive and hostile, is also suffering from the effects. ("Cabin Fever")

Personality changes

While related to a disease or the Sickness, there are several other instances on the Island wherein an individual appears to have changed or been changed in some way.

Benjamin Linus

After being shot by Sayid, Richard Alpert took young Ben to the Temple, using mysterious methods there to heal him. Richard implies that the healing process will change Ben forever and he would never again be the same. ("Dead Is Dead")

Claire

When Locke sees Claire with Christian (who is presumably Jacob's nemesis in disguise) in the cabin, she appears relaxed, nonchalant and unconcerned for Aaron. ("Cabin Fever")

John Locke

Upon the emergency landing of Flight 316 on the Island, Jacob's nemesis assumed the form of and has been masquerading since as John Locke. Arguably, from the point of view of the Others and the survivors who knew him previously, "Locke" has changed. On visiting the Others' camp, Richard Alpert comments as much: "You seem different." ("The Variable")

It is worth noting that Locke is one of the first survivors from Flight 815 to encounter the Monster and, on another occasion, was nearly dragged into a dark opening in the ground similar to Montand. ("Walkabout")  ("Exodus, Part 2")

Jigsaw puzzle

One of the Lost jigsaw puzzles contained a book code cipher on its back. Lostpedia translated the code using a copy of The Turn of the Screw, revealing, among other sentences, the statement: "there is no sickness." According to Gregg Nations, however, Kelvin and Radzinsky wrote these messages - and it is their interpretation of the Island's mysteries.

Sicknesses in The Lost Experience

Letter from the GWC to the Hanso Foundation
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Medical incongruities

  • Meningococcal meningitis is an infection of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, or meningococcus. Meningitis is the broader term for an infection of the CSF caused by any of a number of bacteria or viruses.
  • True vaccines are technically primary prevention, not given after exposure to a pathogen. Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is commonly given to humans after exposure (rabies vaccine is given prior).

Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is caused by Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Staphylococcus aureus, or any of a number of other bacterial pathogens. Bacterial meningitis has similar symptoms of onset as Ben described. Viral meningitis, on the other hand, follows a less severe course.

Bacterial meningitis is treated by antibiotics such as penicillins, cephlasporins, and vancomycin in the United States. These medications are usually administered intravenously and cross the blood brain barrier into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Which drug is given depends on the type of bacteria, as well as the substrain of bacteria.

HOWEVER, certain forms of bacterial meningitis can be prevented by a vaccine, but cannot be treated by such a vaccine.

  • Haemophilus influenzae meningitis can be prevented by receiving the Hib Vaccine, especially in early childhood.
  • Neisseria meningitidis or meningococcus is a cause of life-threatening bacterial meningitis and is usually associated with communal living. There is also now a vaccine covering four strains of the meningococci, thus highly decreasing the spread of thatt form of bacterial meningitis. It is often recommended for students living in college dormitories. For the B strain, which is much harder to produce for use in vaccine, there are a few available being MeNZB in New Zealand and MenBVAC in Norway.
  • In the US, this vaccine is marketed with the trade names: Menactra and Menommune, produced by the Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. in Swiftwater, PA (Physicians' Desk Reference, 2007). There is a common misconception with Menommune, which may explain the multiple doses. Menommune has been shown to only provide a passive protection in most cases against meningococci. Some immunologists and physicians believed multiple vaccinations to solve this problem, by amping up the amount of memory based T-cell antibodies to fight off the infection. However, multiple vaccinations has a somewhat opposite effect, causing a further dented but not completely gone passive protection. Menactra is made by the same company that produced menommune, and has been improved with greater coverage. Menactra can be given to pregnant women. Typically in the US, college students receive a vaccination for this type of bacteria, colloquially known as the "meningitis vaccine".
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae also has a vaccine available, typically for those 65 and older in the US as well as brand new babies, but also is showing signs of preventing strep pneumoniae meningitis. It is called Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine or the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (Physicians' Desk Reference, 2007).
  • More information on these vaccines for meningococal disease can be found at The Center for Disease Control.

Unanswered questions

Unanswered questions
  1. Do not answer the questions here.
  2. Keep the questions open-ended and neutral: do not suggest an answer.
More details...
For fan theories about these unanswered questions, see: The Sickness/Theories
  • Does the Sickness exist?
  • What happened to Danielle's research team underneath the Temple?
  • Why did Robert attempt to kill Danielle?
  • Is the vaccine related to the Sickness?

This article uses material from the "The Sickness" article on the Lostpedia wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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