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Country Democratic Republic of the Congo
Province Équateur
District Mongala

Yambuku is a small village in Mongala District in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (previously Zaire). It is best known as the center of the 1976 Ebola Zaire outbreak.[1] It is 682 miles (1098 km) northeast of the capital city of Kinshasa.

Ebola outbreak[edit]

The first identified case of Ebola was on 26 August 1976, in this rural village 60 miles (96 km) south of the Ebola River.,[2] The first case (the index case) was the headmaster of the local school, Mabalo Lokela. Mabalo had toured an area near the border with the Central African Republic, along the Ebola river, with small group from Yambuku mission from August 12-22 1976. On August 26 1976 Mabalo fell ill and was initially diagnosed with relapse of malaria. By September 5 Mabalo was in a critical condition with profuse bleeding from all orifices and on September 8 he died.[3]

Within a week of Lokela becoming sick, a number of other cases erupted at the hospital. The World Health Organization's report noted that "almost all subsequent infections had either received injections at the hospital or had had close contact with another case."[4]

As was the local custom, Lokela's mother, his wife Mbunzu's mother and sister, and other women friends helped prepare Mabalo's body for burial. Within days most of them were seriously ill and many died shortly thereafter. The mission hospital's reuse of unsterilized needles also helped spread the infection.[5]

In all, 318 cases were identified of which 280 died. (An additional 284 cases and 151 deaths occurred in nearby Sudan.) The small Yambuku hospital was closed after 11 of its 17 staff members died. Belgian nuns serving the community were also infected, and two of them died, along with Mayinga N'Seka, a Zairian nurse, after the group was transported to Kinshasa. With WHO assistance, the outbreak was eventually contained by quarantining local villagers in their communities, sterilizing medical equipment and providing protective clothing to medical personnel. The small Congolese air force provided helicopters to allow the outbreak team to visit 550 villages in the area.

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 2°49′23″N 22°13′28″E / 2.82306°N 22.22444°E / 2.82306; 22.22444


  1. ^ Hewlett, Barry; Hewlett, Bonnie (2007). Ebola, Culture and Politics: The Anthropology of an Emerging Disease. Cengage Learning. p. 103. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  2. ^ http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/4c1711c2-d004-11e3-a2b7-00144feabdc0.html "Ebola Ground Zero My Journey Back" Financial Times 3 May 2014
  3. ^ "Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Zaire, 1976". Bulletin of the World Health Organization 56 (6): 271. 1978. Retrieved 4 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Zaire, 1976". Bulletin of the World Health Organization 56 (6): 271. 1978. Retrieved 4 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Preston, Richard (1994). The Hot Zone. Random House.