Back in 1994, when I was 16, I read a book called "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston. It's a non-fiction thriller which explores the origins of the Ebola and Marburg viruses. It also describes in grim and gory detail the devastating effect these filoviruses have on the humans they invade. I read the book in awe accompanied by a healthy dose of fear. I remember thinking that I could not possibly imagine a more terrifying disease to contract. "A slate wiper", I seem to recall was the turn of phrase used by some of the characters when referring to Ebola.
I finished the book, returned it to the library from whence it came and gave very little thought to the organ liquefying disease until a couple of years later when I watched the film "Outbreak" with Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo. The plot revolves around the outbreak of a fictional ebola like virus called Motaba which threatens to destroy mankind on an unprecedented level. In true Hollywood hero style Dustin and his medical colleague, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., create an anti-serum just in the nick of time and stop the deadly contagion in its tracks. The infected town and the world at large can breathe once more.
It was, of course, a work of fiction based loosely on fact but only a few months after the film was released a real-life outbreak of the Ebola virus occurred in Zaire. Do you remember hearing anything about it? Probably not. It was a relatively small outbreak - 144 people contracted the virus - and it didn't appear to spread beyond Zaire.
The outbreak that is currently sweeping areas of Western Africa is the largest to date - 8,998 suspected cases, 4,493 dead - and is not showing any signs of abating. And the virus has inevitably crossed borders leading to isolated cases elsewhere in the world. How long these cases remain isolated, only time will tell.
I'm worried. Not to the extent that I can't sleep at night or that my concerns interfere with my daily life but there is a part of me that can't help thinking this is going to get much worse before it gets better. When I vocalise my fears to Craigy Boy he rolls his eyes at me. He's not perturbed. He doesn't think we'll be facing a pandemic anytime soon. He has great faith in the robust nature of the National Health Service and its ability to face such a deadly foe head on should it come to that.
Looking forward to hearing viewpoints from my Warriors both home and abroad.