China is marking the start of the year of the rat with a global plague outbreak. 

As spokesman told us, “We wanted a way of celebrating that would really grab the attention. Fireworks displays and dancing are a bit trite. We got together and decided rats are always associated with disease so that’s the best way to celebrate. Then, we had to figure out what disease? Yersinia Pestis would have been too obvious and bacterial infection is old school. Viruses are definitely sexy and give people nostalgic thoughts about the 80’s.”

“We held auditions and a boot camp. After a public vote we’ve found our plague.”

“People born in the year of the rat tend to have hoarding characteristics. This is useful if you’ve hoarded loads of face masks. The rat is also symbolic of wealth and plenty. After this plague there may well be plenty to go around and we’ll need people to breed like rats.”

“Men born in the year of the rat are clever and adapt to new environments which will come in handy after a plague. They’re also great at taking advantage of opportunities. Another useful trait.”

“Women love to be organised and look after family. This should be much easier once everyone else is dead.”

It’s not clear how china plans to celebrate the year of the ox next year.