April 14th, 2014
09:59 AM ET

Ebola: A Swift, Effective and Bloody Killer

It took only moments to feel the impact of what was happening here.

We had just landed in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. In the fields right outside the airport, a young woman was in tears. She started to wail and shout in Susu, one of the 40 languages spoken in this tiny country of 12 million people. The gathered crowd became silent and listened intently.

The young man sitting next to me quietly translated, although I already had my suspicions. He told me the woman's husband had died of Ebola, and then quickly ushered us away.

It is probably not surprising the airplane bringing us into Conakry was nearly empty, as are all the hotels here. Not many people in the United States have ever visited Guinea, or could even identify where it sits in West Africa. It is already one of the world's poorest countries, and the panic around Ebola is only making that worse.

Some of it is justified. That's because this time, the outbreak is different. In the past, Ebola rarely made it out of the remote forested areas of Africa.

Key to that is a grim version of good news/bad news: because Ebola tends to incapacitate its victims and kill them quickly, they rarely have a chance to travel and spread the disease beyond their small villages. Now, however, Ebola is in Conakry, the capital city, with two million residents. Equally concerning: it's just a short distance from where we touched down, at an international airport.

It has gone "viral," and now the hope is that it doesn't go global.

When I asked doctors on the ground about that scenario, they had split opinions. Several told me the concern is real but unlikely. Most patients with Ebola come from small villages in the forest and are unlikely to be flying on international trips, they told me. Furthermore, they don't think Ebola would spread widely in a western country; our medical expertise and our culture - not touching the dead - would prevent it.

Others aren't so sure.

No one wants to test that theory.

See more of Dr. Gupta's take at CNN.com.

And follow Dr. Sanjay Gupta  and his producer Danielle Dellorto on Twitter for updates as they continue to report from the field.  

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