The Imperial Flu is not the flu at all, but rather a magical misalignment that can occur within a magic user. While potentially debilitating it has a remarkably low mortality rate. The disease is not contagious, and symptoms disappear as soon as the patient is realigned and appropriately grounded to the magical fields.
The Imperial Flu results from an individual's misalignment with reality. This is caused by utilizing magic in areas with unstable magical fields, or in areas where the fields of different magics are interacting in unexpected ways. When an individual taps into their own Imperium in these areas they can experience a backlash or magical surge which disrupts their own alignment with the fields and reality itself. The severity of symptoms is dependent upon the power of the spell being cast as well as the afflicted individual's magical strength and natural attunement. The more powerful the spell the greater the risk of contracting the Flu. The symptoms will not subside until the individual is realigned and properly grounded with reality and the magical fields.
Those experiencing the Imperial Flu exhibit a gradual skin tone change which slowly cycles through the full color spectrum for the duration of their affliction. Other symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, alternating fever and chills, muscle aches, and the appearance of partially phasing in and out of reality. Severe cases may also result in strain while breathing or a strange magical humming sound eminating from the sick individual, similar to the humming of the Imperial Night Rose. Those experiencing the Flu are advised to abstain from the usage of magic for the duration of their illness as the results tend to be unpredictable in both outcome and strength of the cast spells.
Patients are encouraged to abstain from magic usage during the Imperial Flu unless under the guidance and direction of a Healer, as their spells will be unpredictable and tapping into their Imperium may worsen symptoms. Rehabilitation begins with meditation and relaxation, as the sick individual must center and realign within themselves before they can realign with reality. Upon successful re-centering of the patient any symptoms involving apparent phase shifting will cease. The afflicted must next realign themselves with reality and the magical fields. Their healer will first tap into the fields then encourage the patient to follow suit, performing simple magical exercises together to promote realignment. The nature of these exercises and duration of this phase of treatment depend upon the severity of the patient's symptoms. Facilities equipped to treat more severe cases typically perform these exercises within a specially equipped room protected by Tyrellium Shielding to prevent injury from spell surges. Upon completion of this phase of treatment the patient's other symptoms should subside. Once the patient is successfully realigned their healer will ensure they are appropriately grounded. This guarantees a successful cure and prevents the symptoms from returning. In mild cases this merely involves handling items related to the appropriate magical fields. More severe cases may require the patient and their healer to travel to a particularly well-grounded location in the wilds for magical meditation. Upon successful completion of the full treatment a patient is cured and will no longer experience symptoms of the disease. It is possible to catch the Imperial Flu again, but only if encountering the conditions that cause the disease. Those of particular magical strength and magical attunement do have a chance of experiencing stronger symptoms if afflicted again by the Flu.
Fortunately for the afflicted the Imperial Flu is a temporary disease with no long-term side effects upon completion of treatment. Occasionally the symptoms of the Flu will return with greater intensity if contracted again, but this only occurs within a small subset of the most powerful magically attuned individuals.
Any magic user, sapient or non-sapient, could become afflicted by the Imperial Flu. In fact it was only through study of various animals' self-treatments that the majority of sapient species developed their own treatments.
The only guaranteed way to prevent contracting the Imperial Flu would be to never use magic. Among those who utilize magic there are various methods to reduce risk, most revolving around developing stronger attunements to the magical fields to better sense surges and other magical events. Because these generally require tapping into magic to some degree the practicioner may still acquire the Flu. The use of smaller passive spells to test conditions prior to casting larger spells limits the impact of the disease, meaning those who do contract the Flu develop a milder case than if they had used their initial spell first.
Magic uses regularly contract the Imperial Flu, resulting in acceptance among the general populace as its causes and symptoms are well understood. Since the Flu is not contagious the afflicted are readily welcomed among society during treatment, provided they feel well enough to participate in daily life. Due to the debilitating nature of stronger cases of the disease it is common to show concern for those suffering the effects of the Flu, particularly when the afflicted is known to be a particularly powerful mage. In the most extreme of cases friends and neighbors of the afflicted will band together to assist the family of the individual in fulfilling their requiremed treatment. In most cultures there is an expectation of a small magical token of appreciation from the mage for those who assisted in their recovery.
Order of AbstentionIn stark contrast to the rest of Fillimet, the Order of Abstention believes the Imperial Flu is a curse from the gods against those who use magic. The disease occurs due to magic usage and requires magic in its cure, leading the Order to decry any attempts to cure or soothe those suffering from the Flu.