Red Dead Redemption 2 players are desperately trying to keep their in-game character alive – by looking for a cure to tuberculosis on Google.
The hit Western game stars Arthur Morgan as a cowboy scratching a living in 1899 in rural America by robbing trains, holding up stagecoaches and collecting bounties.
But towards the end a weary and thin Arthur stumbles down the streets of Saint Denis (think a sort of New Orleans) and is diagnosed with tuberculosis – a bacterial infection that was fatal 119 years ago, before the advent of antibiotics.
When he is diagnosed all the in-game doctor suggests to try and slow the infection is "rest somewhere warm and dry".
That is not on the cards as Arthur’s life spirals out of his control.
But that has not stopped gamers trying to find out how they can cure the ailing Arthur who grows progressively sicker as the game nears the end and the ‘gang’ he is part of falls apart.
Since the game was released on October 26 Google Trends reveals there has been a sharp increase in searches for ‘tuberculosis cure’.
However, spoiler, despite the game enabling you to hunt bison, fish for trout or throw hogtied members of the Ku Klux Klan into an alligator-infested swamp, there is no cure for Arthur.
But the Rockstar game, one of the best-selling of all time, uses the infection to help steer a world-weary Arthur on a better path.
No more shaking down widows for debts their husbands racked up, instead the red-eyed and spluttering protagonist, racked with guilt, can offer her more money instead.
On news aggregating website Reddit Red Dead one gamer wrote: "Made me terribly sad that we just had to sit and watch Arthur get more and more sick. I’m not done the game yet, but I know his demise inevitable".
Another wrote: "I’m not ashamed to admit I looked up things about tuberculosis because of Arthur".
And one made the astute observation: "Google must think there’s been a mass outbreak".
What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person.
It mainly affects the lungs, but it can affect any part of the body, including the tummy (abdomen) glands, bones and nervous system.
TB is a serious condition, but nowadays it can be cured if it’s treated with the right antibiotics.
There is even a widespread vaccination on offer.
The BCG vaccine offers protection against TB, and is recommended on the NHS for babies, children and adults under the age of 35 who are considered to be at risk of catching TB.
Is there a cure for tuberculosis?
Well, not in 1899 there wasn’t.
But thanks to modern medicine deaths are rare.
Treatment for tuberculosis (TB) usually involves taking antibiotics for several months.
While TB is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated, deaths are rare if treatment is completed.
Most people don’t need to be admitted to hospital during treatment.
There are three kinds of TB – pulmonary where you’ll be prescribed at least a six-month course of a combination of antibiotics.
Extrapulmonary – TB that occurs outside the lungs – can be treated using the same combination of antibiotics as those used to treat pulmonary TB.
And latent TB which is where you’ve been infected with the TB bacteria, but don’t have any symptoms of active infection.
If you have latent TB and are aged 65 or under, treatment is usually recommended.
Sadly that’s not an option for Arthur Morgan.
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