If you don’t know about Ebola virus, welcome back from your cave in the side of a hill. The virus, first identified in 1976 after a Belgian nun fell ill and died in Zaire, is a species of haemorrhagic fever. It has since evolved, both genetically and symbolically; the latest strain ofthe disease has infected large numbers of people in West Africa, and apparently morphed into one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Governments and health services all over the world have gone into emergency mode, despite the fact that up until now, only a small handful of people outside Africa have shown any symptoms.
Obviously it would be a catastrophe if a disease with a high mortality rate and no current vaccine or specific cure were to spread across the planet. But the media panic we are seeing is a little out of proportion to the risk, even as perceived by the most nervous of medical commentators. Are we entering the age of extreme health news?