The Congolese Doctor Who Discovered Ebola

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Safai here with none other than NPR east. Africa correspondent eight Peralta to. Hey there ater. Hey mattie thank you so much for talking to us all the way from Kenya. I know there's like an eight hour time difference. I am thrilled but I want to open with a quick question who discovered Ebola and Google. It first of all. How dare you asked me a a question? I should definitely know the answer to and don't and yeah I already. Google bet came up was a Belgian. Microbiologist I but I think you're about to tell me there's more to the story there absolutely there always is right so I mean you cheated. Yeah what you probably saw is a bunch of White Westerners like Dr John Jack. Mugambi does not. Yeah he was not one of the people that came up yes so he's Congolese doctor and today he's doing really important work heading up the response to the current Ebola outbreak in Congo. But back in nineteen seventy six. We we emberg he was the first doctor to collect any bola sample. His crucial role in discovering Bolla is often just a footnote. A lot of history has been written without your name. Yes but you on this Yes it is it not correct did not quite so today on the show correcting the record on a bola the story of Dr John Jock Mugabe and what he's doing now to ensure African scientists are part of writing its future to some in the medical community. It's a controversial move. Okay ater so we're talking talking about a Congolese Dr Jacques in his role in discovering Abullah. When do we begin? So when I sat down with him at his office in Kinshasa south he said we should start in nineteen seventy three. We had just gotten his PhD in microbiology at the Institute in Belgium and and he could have stayed in Europe but he decided to come back to Congo. But when I arrive here The condition of work were not I. I had no lab. I have no mice for experimentation so it was very difficult to work here. Yeah it's tough to do lab work without a lab you now. He said without a library to instead he took a job as a field epidemiologist and just a couple of years later in Nineteen nineteen seventy six we sent from Kinshasa the capital of Congo to the village of Yambuku to investigate a mysterious outbreak It's the first recorded outbreak of Ebola. But no one knew that at the time they thought maybe it was typhoid or yellow fever and he goes to this local hospital but he says he finds it completely empty was nobody there. Local residents thought the hospital was the source of the infection and and people had died there but in the morning when they heard was sent from capitol. They thought he had medicine till they started to come back to the hospital and we started seeing patients. So so what's he seeing. When the patients come in he was seeing people who were very weak with fever they had headaches? I started it to him to make the physical time but at that time. have no gloves you know gloves. And of course he had to draw blood but when I removed they're the city which Blood continued to spread out. It was the first time from two CDs momentum and also my fingers so with a bow. Wow Yeah so he says he he would wash his hands a lot but really really he says it was just luck that he didn't catchable. Yeah definitely I mean. That's amazing that he's in there and there's gloves and there's patients and they don't really know what's going on and he was able to not get it and at this point we MP. He was startled but then three nurses died that night and a Belgian nun who was working in the village also got sick with a fever all the nuns had been vaccinated against typhoid and yellow fever. So at this point I was like. Oh it's probably not those things. Thanks yeah I mean in the severity to the deaths with this outbreak. He started to realize that this was something different. So he convinced one none to go back to Kinshasa with him so what happens next. She died at a hospital a couple of days later but he took blood samples and he sent them to Belgium for testing and the guy on the other end. That was Peter. Piot who at the time was with the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Belgium. Aw The guy who turned up from Google Search. Yeah that's right. And so he and other scientists start working to identify the culprit the CDC in the US US gets involved and they realize this is a new virus that caused hemorragic

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