By DAVID ERICKSON - Ravalli Republic | Posted: Saturday, April 7, 2012 2:30 pm
One of the world’s leading experts on the Ebola virus will be in Hamilton next Friday to talk about his experiences in finding, identifying and isolating the deadly virus.
Guido van der Groen, Ph.D., who in 1976 was one of the first scientists to isolate and identify the Ebola virus, will give a talk titled “How a Virus Hunter became an Ebola Freak,” at 7 p.m. at the Hamilton High School Performing Arts Center on Friday, April 13. Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton is sponsoring the talk as part of its community outreach series.
In the summer of 1976, van der Groen was a 33-year-old biochemist and research assistant at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Belgium. Reports of an unknown infectious disease led him and a team of scientists to the central African nation of Zaire, now named the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Near the village of Yambuku along the Ebola River, people were dying from a disease that destroyed their internal organs.
No one knew the cause of the disease, how it spread or how to stop it. But van der Groen and the ITM team, along with Karl Johnson, M.D., and his colleagues from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), spent months independently working among villagers and eventually identified a new virus, Ebola, named after the river.
“After three months’ expedition in Zaire trying to control the epidemic as well as to find out where Ebola hides in nature, my interest in this fascinating virus started,” van der Groen said.
He said he also gained an appreciation for people who survive with minimal resources.
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