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(written from a Production point of view)
Samples of the Vegan D virus were being kept in the USS Shepard's bio-sterilization capsules when the Whale Probe disabled the ship in 2286. The Vegan D virus escaped containment and was believed to have infected the entire crew, forcing the captain to quarantine all but a minimal support crew. It was responsible for the deaths of fifteen crew members at the time of the Shepard's distress call to Starfleet Command.