Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Symantec’s AntiVirus Research Center today confirmed that foot-and-mouth disease cannot be spread by Microsoft’s Outlook email application, believed to be the first time the program has ever failed to propagate a major virus.
“Frankly, we’ve never heard of a virus that couldn’t spread through Microsoft Outlook, so our findings were, to say the least, unexpected,” said Clive Sarnow, director of the CDC’s infectious disease unit.
The study was immediately hailed by British officials, who said it will save millions of pounds and thousands of man hours. “Up until now we have, quite naturally, assumed that both foot-and-mouth and mad cow were spread by Microsoft Outlook,” said Nick Brown, Britain’s Agriculture Minister. “By eliminating it, we can focus our resources elsewhere.”
However, researchers in the Netherlands, where foot-and-mouth has recently appeared, said they are not yet prepared to disqualify Outlook, which has been the progenitor of viruses such as “I Love You,” “Bubbleboy,” “Anna Kournikova,” and “Naked Wife,” to name but a few.
Said Nils Overmars, director of the Molecular Virology Lab at Leiden University: “It’s not that we don’t trust the research, it’s just that as scientists, we are trained to be skeptical of any finding that flies in the face of established truth. And this one flies in the face like a blind drunk sparrow.”
Executives at Microsoft, meanwhile, were equally skeptical, insisting that Outlook’s patented Virus Transfer Protocol (VTP) has proven virtually pervious to any virus. The company, however, will issue a free VTP patch if it turns out the application is not vulnerable to foot-and-mouth.
Such an admission would be embarrassing for the software giant, but Symantec virologist Ariel Kologne insisted that no one is more humiliated by the study than she is. “Only last week, I had a reporter ask if the foot-and-mouth virus spreads through Microsoft Outlook, and I told him, ‘Doesn’t everything?’” she recalled. “Who would’ve thought?”