On page 176, Preston writes, "One or two viruses can become a billion viruses in a few days- a China of viruses in a bottle the size of one's thumb."
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Answered by Aslan
He says that one or two viruses can mutate into a billion viruses. He is comparing the number of viruses to the population of China. Although rather culturally insensitive, he tries to give the reader an idea of how many viruses can form.