Feeling ill and feverish -- with a little bleeding from the nose? Maybe you've caught the Ebola virus! The chances are even higher if three out of your four closest friends have died suddenly in the last two days.
In fact, your illness could be the harbinger of an epidemic that might abruptly wipe out a significant fraction of the human race!
Frequently featured in apocalyptic movies and books, this fascinating RNA virus combines exotic origins with highly infectious and frequently fatal results. Originally isolated among populations of African cave bats in Zaire, the Ebola virus is transmitted via body secretions -- an excellent reason for avoiding prolonged oral or sexual contact with vomiting strangers from Liberia. After an incubation period of up to three weeks, victims can develop high fever rapidly complicated by massive hemorrhage and death within hours. Because the infection is so rare, you will almost certainly be dead before anybody figures out what's wrong with you. There is no known treatment.
Ebola outbreaks are swift and are followed with considerable interest by governments that want to keep most of their citizens alive. In the past, these outbreaks have been contained, but in our modern, urban world, the next epidemic could start literally anywhere -- maybe even in your neighborhood!
Most deaths occur in medical workers exposed in hospitals and emergency rooms, so if you think you might have the ebola virus, one recommended plan is to drive deep into the desert and await death. But don't despair -- you might be one of the lucky few who survive to help rebuild civilization!