When you wake up in the morning you woke up feeling a little unwell. You have no appetite, your head is aching, your throat is sore and you think you might be slightly feverish. You don’t know it yet, but Ebola virus has started to attack your immune system, wiping out the T-lymphocyte cells that are crucial to its proper function.
These are the same cells that the AIDS virus attacks, but Ebola virus kills them far more aggressively. Exactly when and where you caught Ebola virus is unclear, it can take anything between two and 21 days from initial infection to the first symptoms. What is more certain is that you are now infectious yourself. Your family, friends and anyone in close contact with you are all in mortal danger.
The next week or so will determine if you are one of the lucky minority who survive. In the 24 Ebola virus outbreaks prior to the present one, a cumulative total of 1,590 people, two-thirds of all cases, have died.
The current outbreak, which began in the village of Meliandou in eastern Guinea in early December 2013, and which has now spread across Guinea and into the neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia, has killed 251 people as of June 5, nearly half of the identified cases.
The west African Ebola epidemic is now the largest outbreak seen since Ebola virus was discovered in 1976.