Ebola Outbreak in Uganda: CDC Rushes to Contain Virus

Dr. Richard Besser travels with American doctors as they race to stop a global threat.
3:00 | 08/08/12

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Ebola Outbreak in Uganda: CDC Rushes to Contain Virus
are scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of ebola. A highly contagious often fatal breakout of a vaccine. They allowed abc's chief medical correspondent dr. Richard besser and "nightline" producer alex waterfield to embed with them, as they go into the hot zone. Reporter: Ten faces people are marching silently towards a remote ugandan village. I am one of them. They seem to know why we're there. We're looking for the house with the dead man inside. We find him on the floor of this hut. They're setting up the equipment they need to to take the skin sample. The team went inside. The sample they collect will soon be in a lab halfway around the world. The team has to ignore the chilling sounds of grief, as they dispose of his body quickly, without ceremony. These drastic measures are essential when dealing with one of the most lethal and mysterious diseases on the planet, ebola. A viral hemorrhagic fever that comes out of the jungle has no cure and could kill in a matter of days. Did the dead man have it? Did he infect anyone else? There was someone else sick here? Reporter: How do you catch it? And how do we stop it? Questions we will try to answer from inside the hot zone. We've traveled here with a team sent by the u.S. Government. The centers for disease control and prevention. Their mission, to identify the source of the virus and contain it. It's a small word now. The potential for a deadly virus to break out of the hot zone and travel around the globe is more frightening than ever. We don't have high walls around our country. Just because something happens far away in africa, doesn't mean that it can't happen back in the united states. So he'll be coordinating that? Reporter: Our journey begins at cdc's headquarters in atlanta. My old stomping grounds. I worked here for 13 years. I'm here to meet the team I'm embedded with. Led by epidemiologist barbara knust. This unassuming westerner and mother of a 1-year-old investigates deadly diseases all over the world but this will be her first brush with ebola in the field. Hopefully, we'll be able to get it under control quickly. Reporter: Her job is to investigate where how and why this outbreak started. This is your first ebola outbreak in the field. You don't seem very nervous. Well, I've been spending a lot of years studying and preparing for this kind of a thing. Reporter: Together, we make the 8,000 mile journey to kampala, the kaemcapital of uganda. We pick up the safety gear and start the four-hour drive to kagadi. It strikes me as unfair that a virus would ravage such a peaceful and beautiful place. There's no way to know if you have ebola until the symptoms develop. At first glance, the town seems normal enough, until you see people dressed like this walking around. This bare bones hospital is a ward that's become a makeshift ebola isolation facility. The rest of the hospital is totally deserted. We're greeted by dr. Paul, the epidemiologists. Hopefully, patients will be housed in this area. Reporter: In the meantime, the protection measures are basic at best. And there it is. The isolation ward. Just on the other side of this wall are three confirmed cases of ebola. And these kids are also eager to learn more about this mysterious disease. Where do you think ebola comes? Monkeys. Reporter: From where? Monkeys? They're probably right. Monkeys are probably the main transmitters of the virus. And just outside of town, monkeys are everywhere. E they go. But the cdc team has suspicion, it may not just be primates transferring it but also bats. Unlike primates who die quickly from ebola, bats don't seem to be affected by the virus. The area around there is ground zero for the ebola outbreak. 60 confirmed cases. Anyone with fever wonder if they will be the next victim. Like this father who brought his son. Also symptoms of ebola, but also symptoms of the other diseases. The team here doesn't take any chances. The boy is sent to the isolation ward. Once inside, the cdc will take his blood sample. I'm invited to go in with them. We start the laborious process of getting suited up. Going into the isolation ward is extremely dangerous and every precaution must be taken to protect ourselves. In some outbreaks a quarter of all ebola outbreaks are among doctors and nurses. This is to protect, in case anyone vomits or blood. If there's any splatter, it won't get down into my suit. Every part of my body must be covered. Even a ski mask covers my eyes. When you're dealing with something like ebola, making sure every inch is covered is essential. The disease is not airborne, but inside the ward, there are fears that sick people have lethal bodily fluids on every surface. Just try to stay calm. It is quite frightening, if you suddenly breathe it. Don't touch your masks. Good luck, man. Reporter: Thank you. I have to say that there are a few things that I've done in medicine that are as nerve-racking as going into this place. Ebola is untreatable. Those do have ebola. Over there. Over there. And over there. Inside, patients with ebola should be separated with those who are unconfirmed but not all are. It must be terrifying for those who do not have it to be a few feet away from those who do. Like the boy being tested. Do you know what symptoms this boy has? His father is still with him. Neither can leave until the boy gets the negative result back from the blood test. Do you feel okay? It looks like the main purpose of the ward to remove the people from the society, t protect the community from the untreatable disease. Thank you. Very little to do with healing the sick. I'm doused with bleach again. And again. It was an exhausting experience, but there's barely time to process it. There's more work to do. Wrapping up this epidemic is all about going down these roads, finding any possible case. It's really hard work. And the people who are doing it, they can't even let the most remote case go without checking. Moment of truth. Reporter: For those in the ebola ward, there's only one way out, negative test results. Yesterday, we were at this specialized cdc lab 200 miles away when the results for one patient were good news. It looks like it's negative. Reporter: And for the boy on the ward waiting for his results, good news. His test was negative, too. I'm dr. Richard besser for "nightline" in kgadi, uganda.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"id":16954196,"title":"Ebola Outbreak in Uganda: CDC Rushes to Contain Virus","duration":"3:00","description":"Dr. Richard Besser travels with American doctors as they race to stop a global threat.","url":"/Nightline/video/ebola-outbreak-uganda-cdc-rushes-virus-16954196","section":"Nightline","mediaType":"default"}