The SPARS Pandemic Scenario
In 2017, the Johns Hopkins Center of Health Security ran a simulation of a coronavirus pandemic known as SPARS. In the months since SARS-CoV-2 was declared a pandemic, researchers and journalists have spent countless hours searching for relevant information that might shed some light on the origins of what has come to be known as COVID-19. This research has led some to a number of simulations and exercises which “war gamed” a potential viral outbreak and asked how the people and institutions of the world would respond (they are Event 201, Crimson Contagion, Operation Lockstep & Clade X). It mentions a new virus that will infect mankind in 2025, and it will last until 2028.
Note the Disclaimer before we start:
This is a hypothetical scenario designed to illustrate the public health risk communication challenges that could potentially emerge during a naturally occurring infectious disease outbreak requiring development and distribution of novel and/or investigational drugs, vaccines, therapeutics, or other medical countermeasures. The infectious pathogen, medical countermeasures, characters, news media excerpts, social media posts, and government agency responses described herein are entirely fictional.
The report is written from the perspective of someone in 2030 who is looking back on a pandemic which swept around the world between 2025 and 2028. The document states that the creators identified major socioeconomic, demographic, technological, and environmental trends which they believe are likely to emerge during this period. The two trends they said are likely to influence public health emergencies are “varying degrees of access to information technology” and increased “fragmentation among populations along social, political, religious, ideological, and cultural lines.”
The exercise describes the world of 2025 as “more connected, yet more divided” with near universal access to wireless internet. The report discusses a new technology known as internet accessing technology (IAT), which is described as “thin, flexible screens that can be temporarily attached to briefcases, backpacks, or clothing and used to stream content from the internet.” New social media platforms also affect the digital landscape, including ZapQ, a platform that “enables users to aggregate and archive selected media content from other platforms and communicate with cloud-based social groups based on common interests and current events.”
In mid-October 2025, three deaths were reported at a church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Two church members recently returned from a trip to the Philippines. While their deaths were initially assumed to be influenza, laboratory results later disproved this theory. Eventually, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the three patients were infected with a novel coronavirus, known as the St. Paul Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SPARS-CoV, or SPARS).
Interestingly, the report notes that “early case fatality estimates were inflated” with the CDC estimating SPARS case fatality rate of 4.7%, and the WHO saying 14-15% and over 50% for people over the age of 64. Later studies would provide a more accurate estimate of only 0.6%. This simulated scenario mimics what we have seen with COVID-19. The CDC and WHO both initially claimed the fatality rate was much higher before later admitting that the rate was below 1%.
The report goes on to detail how public health and medical professionals were not successful in stopping the spread of SPARS. By time Thanksgiving and Black Friday arrived the transmission of SPARS accelerated due to asymptomatic individuals traveling. By mid-December, SPARS cases were reported in 26 states, as well as Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Japan, and several European countries.
The report goes on to discuss the creation of a therapeutic called Kalocivir and how a growing number of individuals begin to challenge the use of pharmaceuticals and vaccines. These individuals who promoted “natural cures such as garlic and vitamins” were less likely to take Kalocivir or seek medical attention for SPARS-like symptoms.
Concerns about Kalocivir increased in February 2026 when a viral video shows a three-year-old boy projectile vomiting after taking a dose of the therapeutic. The clip is shared across the U.S. with the hashtags #NoKalocivir and #NaturalIsBetter. Social media activists began to use ZapQ groups to share the video and also place IAT screens on the backs of their jackets and backpacks while looping the video. By the summer the video is the most shared “Zap clip” among junior high and high school students.
By May 2026 the CDC admitted that SPARS was only fatal in 0.6% of cases in the United States. This reality was reflected on social media, where much of the public began to recognize that SPARS was not as dangerous as they had been told. The report details how the CDC, the FDA, and other government agencies worked with “social media experts” to develop public health messaging campaigns about SPARS, Kalocivir, and the forthcoming vaccine, Corovax. Much like in the Event 201 exercise, the SPARS simulation involved enlisting the help of “well-known scientists, celebrities, and government officials” to make videos and give interviews promoting the government messaging campaigns.
The public did not respond well to the campaigns and instead took to social media to express their disapproval. The mainstream media even began to question the government narrative and the safety of the Corovax. The opposition to the Corovax merged with the growing anti-vaccination movement which emerged on social media. These groups were made up of Muslims who opposed the vaccine; African Americans, who did not trust the government due to fears of experimentation on the black community; the alternative medicine community; and the “anti-vaccination” community.
The report describes how adverse side effects began to emerge as more Americans received the vaccine. Parents claimed their children were experiencing neurological symptoms similar to those seen in the animals injected with the GMI vaccine. By May 2027, parents began filing lawsuits and demanding a removal of the liability protecting the pharmaceutical companies who developed Corovax.
By the end of 2027, new neurological symptoms began to appear in people who had taken Corovax. “After showing no adverse side effects for nearly a year, several vaccine recipients slowly began to experience symptoms such as blurry vision, headaches, and numbness in their extremities,” the Center for Health Security wrote. The report says that by 2030 it was still unclear if the vaccinations were to blame for the side-effects.
As the report wraps up it examines how the world looks from 2030, five years after the SPARS pandemic began. While the pandemic officially ended in 2028, cases exist in 14 countries across Europe, Africa, and Asia. WHO experts anticipate that future outbreaks will continue to emerge unless countries maintain widespread vaccination coverage.
As the public finally goes back to “normal life” they begin to focus their frustrations on politicians and agency representatives who they blame for exaggerating the severity of the event. Eventually, several high-ranking officials within the CDC and FDA are forced to retire. However, there appears to be a lack of accountability as there is “little desire” to “rehash the events of the past several years.”