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Ebola in Zaire, 1976: The Past as Prologue

We Were There header image


The Office of Science invites you to the next “We Were There” lecture on September 5, 2019. “We Were There” provides insight into the rich past of CDC and gives the audience a chance to hear first-hand accounts from CDC responders.  This “We Were There” is being presented coincident with the 50th anniversary of the opening of CDC’s high-containment laboratory facilities.

In late summer of 1976, patients began presenting at a rural hospital in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo (then referred to as Zaire) with fever, headache, abdominal pain and severe bleeding. Malaria, severe typhoid, or yellow fever were initially suspected, but then ruled out. As case fatality rates rose to 80%, so did the uncertainty of the cause of this hemorrhagic disease.

Samples were first sent to Belgium, then to high-containment labs in England and Atlanta via Paris. Initially, the samples yielded alarming images of a filovirus resembling Marburg, but serology testing at the CDC showed a new virus, later named Ebola. By October, a strict quarantine resulted in the interruption of the disease and the outbreak subsided. Even more than four decades later, Ebola continues to reemerge – with devastating impact.

Join us to hear a remarkable story of how disease detectives discovered the Ebola virus and how our understanding of it has grown with subsequent outbreaks over the past 40 years.

Speakers include Drs. James Lange, Joel Breman, and Jonathan Towner.

We Were There
“Ebola in Zaire, 1976: The Past as Prologue”
Thursday, September 5, 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET
Global Communications Center (Building 19)
Auditorium B3


Facilitated by:

Phoebe Thorpe, MD, MPH, Series Director

John Iskander, MD, MPH, Senior Advisor


For more information about the “We Were There” series, please visit our website. If you need to get in touch, feel free to email us.


Our sessions are open to the public via live webcast.

For online viewing, no registration is required. Simply visit our website and use one of the webcast links provided. The webcast links will be live approximately five minutes prior to the start of the presentation. Sessions are posted 3-4 days after each presentation to our website.


For non-CDC staff who want to attend in person:

Non-CDC staff must have prior security approval. US citizens must submit a request via email.  A US state-issued photo ID (e.g., driver’s license, US passport) is required.


Non-US citizens must submit their requests 20 days prior to the session via email, and additional information will be required.

For CDC staff unable to attend in person:

The session will be available on our webcast or on IPTV. (Note: IPTV is NOT available on CITGO).


For non-FTE staff who want to attend in person:

Contractors may attend this meeting with the prior approval of their employer.


For CDC retirees who wish to attend in person:

If you have a current retiree badge, no further action is required. If you don’t have a retiree badge, or if you are not sure whether your badge is still valid, please let us know that you plan to attend by sending us an email. Please include your first and last names and confirmation of U.S. citizenship (international visitors take considerably longer to process and require additional information.)


Shuttle Service and Parking:

Parking at CDC’s Roybal Campus is limited. Shuttle service is available from Chamblee, Century Center, and Corporate Square. We encourage you to carpool or use an alternate means of transportation. If you do plan to drive, please allow extra time for parking. If you have any questions about the location or about parking, please send us an email.


CDC encourages full participation by employees with disabilities:

Assistive listening devices will be available from blue-shirted technicians at the event. Please plan to arrive early to ensure your needs are met before the event begins. A closed-captioned version will be available via IPTV (select Channel 4 from the list of channels on the IPTV website) or via the web stream. Captions will also be available online via Relay Conference Captioning.  Information about the Relay Conference Captioning will be posted to website as soon as it is available.


Please email Meeting Accessibility Support if you have questions or comments about accessibility compliance.

Announcement Point of Contact:

  • Page last reviewed: August 5, 2019
  • Page last updated: August 5, 2019
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Science