I believe the reference guide may imply that a card of a certain type, when not found, is simply not obtained. In this case, if it is an Illness Condition, then the investigator simply doesn't gain the condition, I believe, and if it is a case where "an investigator may gain an Illness to etc" then he doesn't have that option to do that etc.
However, what about the Epidemic Prelude card in Under The Pyramids which reads
Then each investigator gains 1 ILLNESS Condition and 1 Clue.
There are only 4 Illness cards, so if I have 8 investigators, do only 4 get the Illness, and do only those 4 likewise get Clues for the Prelude because the text implies the Illness and Clue must go hand in hand (I'm not even sure this wording necessarily implies that, although one could imagine wording it as "then each gains an Illness; then each gains a clue" would clarify they don't go hand in hand)?