Ebola. The word itself sends a little chill through me. It’s been the focus of many a scary movie and book over the years. I imagine groups huddled, as much as you can in an internet way, as campfire conspiracy theories are passed around about its origins. Until now the virus has been contained in Africa, and Ebola remained the stuff of fiction and nightmares. But now it’s out. It’s escaped. There’s been a bid for freedom and while western Africa struggles to live through this outbreak the rest of the world is holding its collective breath and waiting to see what happens next.
People like me are probably more scared or maybe I should say ‘more easily scared’ because I’m a story teller. I think of this stuff, worry about this stuff, wonder when it’ll happen and how it’ll happen. ‘It’ being an outbreak of any infectious disease. Just happens to be Ebola’s turn. My normal concern about this kind of stuff has had the volume cranked up and now I’m panicking.
My book Plague was published in late 2011. I did more research for that book than I had ever done for any other. What would happen if there was an outbreak of something nasty? What lengths would the government go to in an effort to contain it? I envisioned people quarantined to their houses. There would be special helplines to call if you became ill, with people told to stay away from hospitals and their doctor’s surgery. The sick would be locked into their houses and left to fend for themselves as the health service was overwhelmed and then collapsed. Armed guards would patrol the streets to ensure the sick stayed put. It’s a scary vision of what might happen. More scary is how I’m now reading about those first stages being discussed by our leaders in the government.
Despite my husband and me trying to shield our thirteen-year-old son from all the Ebola scariness (me as a scared story-teller, him as the scared conspiracy theorist) James came home the other day unable to stop talking about it. His biology teacher had been telling them all about Ebola and the nightmare scenarios. Cheers, teach. My son had gone into panic overdrive. I told some hopeful lies about how it’ll come under control and calmed him down. Meanwhile I’m debating stocking up on bottled water and dried food, and buying one of those camping stoves with a bunch of bottles of gas. You can never be too prepared, right?
If you want to see for yourself how I handled an outbreak of bubonic plague on UK soil, here are the links for Amazon US and UK.