William T CloseBMJ 2009; 338 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b1438 (Published 06 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1438
- Ned Stafford
In October 1976 the world’s first Ebola hemorrhagic fever epidemic struck Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the remote town of Yambuku. People infected with the virus were dying horrible deaths, with symptoms including severe sore throats, rashes, abdominal pains, and bleeding from multiple sites throughout their bodies. People were fleeing the area, and roads were blocked and commercial air travel stopped. Global health officials feared that the new virus might spread outward from Zaire into Africa and possibly beyond.
“It was scary,” recalls Peter Piot, who as a young doctor was dispatched to Zaire from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium. He joined health officials from the US Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the Institut Pasteur, and others in the capital city of Kinshasa for a strategy and planning meeting with the Zairian health minister. “We were confronted with something new and unknown. It was a very traumatic experience.”
Also at the meeting was William T Close, a flamboyant American, who Dr Piot describes as “a …