Ebola Fever

Field scientists

Taking Samples

While the U.S. was consumed with the mystery disease in Pennsylvania, a new challenge would soon emerge overseas. In October 1976, hemorrhagic fever emerged in the town of Yambuku in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hemorrhagic fevers are often deadly, as they quickly damage many organs and the blood vessels, and this new disease proved to be especially severe. In the photograph displayed above, scientists are taking samples from local animals and insects in response to a later outbreak of the disease.

Memo book

Collecting Data

Memo books from one of CDC’s investigators are also seen here. Using the data they collected, investigators traced the source of the outbreak to a patient at a mission hospital. By quickly isolating the disease, CDC and other disease control organizations prevented the spread of the Ebola virus. By the time the epidemic ended, 318 people became ill and 88% of them died, devastating the area.

Government Officials

Comparing Notes

CDC epidemiologists, the Zairian government, and other international scientists came together to control the spread and identify the new disease. A photograph displayed here shows Zairian health officials sitting at a small table, surrounded by local villagers while they examine notes.

Health scientist in hazard suit

Hot Labs: BSL-4

While the outbreak was under control, the pathogen still had to be identified. Laboratorians in Atlanta analyzed blood and tissue samples in CDC’s “hot labs” and were able to isolate a virus that was named after a river near the outbreak, the Ebola River. Because there is no cure for Ebola fever, study of the virus today takes place in CDC’s high containment Biosafety Level 4 labspdf icon.

While the source of Ebola is unknown, scientists do have some theories and suspect that bats are the natural reservoir for the virus. CDC continues to research the virus and work with other countries to control outbreaks of Ebola.

Enrichment Modules
Page last reviewed: March 23, 2021