Congolese expert Jean-Jacques Muyembe may be little known to the public, but he has been one of the world’s top Ebola investigators since the first epidemic erupted in central Africa in 1976.
Now, amid a decline in a west African outbreak that has taken more than 11,000 lives, Muyembe warns that Ebola will strike again in the future and that the deadly virus poses “a threat to the whole world”.
Muyembe studied medicine in Kinshasa and at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He returned home to the Democratic Republic of Congo — then known as Zaire — in 1976, when the northern village of Yambuku was struck by a mysterious disease.
“They said many people were dying, and the health ministry asked me to go investigate,” Muyembe told AFP.
He initially thought it could be a case of typhoid fever but he decided to continue investigating until he got to the bottom of it.
“I drew blood, and had no protective gloves or clothing,” Muyembe said.