- "It started as rioting, and right from the beginning you knew this was different. Because it was happening in small villages, market towns. And then it wasn't on the TV anymore; it was in the street outside, it was coming through your windows. By the time they tried to evacuate the cities, it was already too late; the infection was everywhere. The army blockades were overrun. And that's when the exodus started. We didn't hear anything more after that."
- ―Selena tells Jim the history of the outbreak
Cambridge Primate Research Centre scientists Warren and Clive were looking to develop an anger inhibitor after being hired by an unknown company. After developing a prototype of the Inhibitor, Warren tested it on numerous human test subjects, but they each ended up in failure. He then got the idea to splice the inhibitor with the Ebola virus as a means to better deliver it into a host's system. They tested this new strain of the inhibitor on chimpanzees. However, the virus mutated and had the opposite effect; creating an anger accelerator as opposed to an inhibitor, dubbed the Rage Virus. Clive soon resigned from the project in disgust, and contacted the Animal Freedom Front in regards to the Centre's testing on the chimps, before committing suicide.
After agents sent by the Animal Freedom Front freed the chimpanzees infected with the virus from the Cambridge Primate Research Centre one night, the Infection began to spread through Cambridge over the night. The media misinterpreted the damage, death and destruction the Rage Virus was causing throughout Cambridge as rioting. (28 Days Later: The Aftermath)
The next day, the Rage Virus reached Cherry Hinton Hall and was causing major backup throughout Cambridge. The Infection also spread down into London on this day, with the Infected attacking and pursuing civilians in the streets and lanes. (28 Days Later: The Aftermath) In the following days, the media continued to regard the effects of the virus' spread as rioting, but the public knew otherwise when the violent phenomena occurred in small villages and market towns. (28 Days Later (film))
Later during the outbreak, much of London for as far as Regent's Park was under attack by the Infected. British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared a state of emergency, and martial law was imposed. (28 Days Later: The Aftermath) Approximately ten days into the outbreak, water pressure failed throughout London, (28 Days Later (film)) with other basic services such as electricity eventually following suite. As the chaos escalated and the Infection spread, many of the uninfected populace tried to evacuate Britain, but train stations such as King's Cross and Paddington Station were inundated, leading to the Infection spreading like wildfire when the Infected attacked in the crowds. (28 Days Later (film), 28 Days Later: The Aftermath)
The British Army set up military blockades in and around cities such as London and Manchester to protect them from the Infected. Despite the Army's efforts, the blockades in London were overrun by the Infected, leading to Central London's abandonment by the collapsing Army and government. (28 Days Later (film), 28 Days Later: The Aftermath) With the blockades overrun, a mass exodus of the uninfected British people was ordered, causing global chaos. During this time, shops closed throughout the country, all the roads surrounding London were gridlocked, and Scotland began to suffer power cuts. (28 Days Later (film)) Experts and scientists from the CDC were flying to Britain during this time to assist in attempts to locate an antidote for Infection. (28 Days Later (comic series))
The day before broadcasts in Britain ceased, there were reports that the Infection had surfaced in Paris and New York, (28 Days Later (film)) though these reports were presumably false. On Day 15 of the outbreak, mainland Britain was quarantined by NATO and the United Nations to prevent the Rage Virus from spreading beyond the country (28 Weeks Later). The FAA immediately redirected American air carriers from flying to Britain to enforce the quarantine (28 Days Later (comic series)). An unknown number of American military quarantine camps were established on the mainland (apparently unknown to most of the remaining survivors, who seemingly believed it to be the end of civilisation). (28 Weeks Later, 28 Days Later: The Aftermath) The British government, Police, and most of the Army collapsed shortly after, and services such as power and broadcasting ceased in Britain. (28 Days Later (film))
UN refugee camps were opened throughout Europe for those who'd escaped Britain during the exodus, (28 Days Later (film), 28 Weeks Later, 28 Days Later (comic series)) and a US military research centre was opened on the Isle of Wight to locate a possible cure for Infection. (28 Days Later (comic series)) There was also mass paranoia in the US of Infection spreading to America, exemplified when a single woman at JFK sneezing caused a deadly stampede at the airport.
Some time after most of the British Army collapsed, (28 Days Later (comic series)) the Infected were able to breach and overrun the blockades surrounding Manchester, entering the city. (28 Days Later (film)) Fires were deliberately started to drive the Infected out into the countryside, but without any fire crews to control the blaze, the fires eventually engulfed the entire city, (28 Days Later (comic series)) in the process leaving the surrounding countryside swarming with hundreds of Infected that had fled the inferno. (28 Days Later (film))
By Day 28 of the outbreak, Great Britain ceased to exist as a nation, (28 Days Later (comic series)) and mainland Britain had been fully destroyed by the Rage Virus. (28 Weeks Later) Aside from the Infected, most of the remaining population were scattered survivors, and little to no remnants of organised society remained.
As long as two - seven months after the outbreak, while nearly all of the Infected in mainland England had died of starvation, there were still many newly-Infected further north, and thus much of mainland Scotland was still infected. The Infection was also able to spread from mainland Britain to the Shetland Islands during this time, overrunning Sumburgh and leading to the island being quarantined.
While some towns and cities in Scotland such as Halkirk and Inverness were swarming with Infected, Glasgow and Edinburgh had survived the outbreak (but were not left intact) and were locked in a state of war with one another over resources. There were small bands of survivors all over Britain, mainly in Scotland, who had formed into gangs and groups of bandits and were often desperate for resources. (28 Days Later (comic series))
Effect on the rest of the world
The Original Outbreak had a heavy effect on other countries. During the outbreak, the mass exodus of the uninfected people from Britain caused global chaos, (28 Days Later (film)) and there was mass paranoia in the United States of Infection spreading to America. Tourism in Europe dropped due to the outbreak in mainland Britain, and a month or more after the outbreak, seagulls along France's coastline were being shot down due to unsupported paranoia of Infection spreading over the English Channel through avian transmission. (28 Days Later (comic series))