What do people with ebola look like?

The burial teams Muller followed are often paid about $100 a week. The workers—most of whom aren’t medical professionals—haul tanks of chlorinated water to douse the dead and their dwellings, swabbing their mouths to confirm the cause of death before sealing the bodies in bags for burial.

Trained public health workers find every person who might have had contact with an infected person. They watch each of those people for 21 days. If someone shows signs of Ebola, health care teams test them, treat them, and keep them away from others. Then the workers track down everyone that person came in contact with as well. The goal is to stop Ebola from spreading further.

John Moore, a photojournalist with Getty Images based in New York, is in Monrovia to document what has quickly become the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record. He speaks with TIME’s Andrew Katz about what he’s seen on the ground. This email interview has been lightly edited for clarity. (This gallery has been updated.)

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Ebola is a deadly disease caused by a virus. There are five strains, and four of them can make people sick. After entering the body, it kills cells, making some of them explode. It wrecks the immune system, causes heavy bleeding inside the body, and damages almost every organ.

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Public health advocates play music to attract people for an Ebola awareness and prevention event on Aug. 18, 2014 in Monrovia. John Moore—Getty Images

The World Health Organization reported on Aug. 19 that more than 1,200 people have died in the massive Ebola outbreak across West Africa, with Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone at the epicenter. The situation, officials say, is considered “out of control.”

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LightBox: Can you talk about the holding center that was ransacked by a mob on Saturday? Health officials were also concerned that people suffering from Ebola had escaped that facility, which could mean the virus will spread.

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J.M.: Numerous people died in that classroom, one of them while I was there. Initially, people with symptoms and those without were confined together, but were later separated into different rooms. Several of the sick “escaped” the night before the mob overran it, as they were not receiving any medication, like aspirin, to help with their symptoms. Of those who left, two died in the community the next day. I am not sure where the additional patients are now, as some of them reportedly had been brought from other neighborhoods and would have gone home there. [At least 17 patients have since been found and transferred to a treatment center.]

J.M.: A burial team had come to remove four bodies from different houses in the neighborhood. The families of the deceased did not believe Ebola was to blame, as the bodies had not yet been tested. They rallied the neighborhood to drive out the burial team and its police escort. It was a demonstration that turned into a mob and the police had to fire warning shots into the air as they escaped the crowd, which was chanting “No Ebola in West Point.” The mob then moved down the street to the holding/isolation center and forced open the gates to the compound. The terrified patients inside watched from the front door as the crowd entered and told them to come out and join them, that they didn’t have Ebola at all and that the epidemic was not real. One from the crowd grabbed a girl from the front door and carried her out, and the rest of the family then followed. It was a horrific scene. I left shortly thereafter, as I felt it was time. I should stress that I was never physically threatened or harmed in any way. Later on, the mob reportedly looted the facility, including the soiled mattresses and medical equipment. If they didn’t have an Ebola epidemic in their community then, they most certainly do now.

Benedicte Kurzen, September 2014.“From early morning till late in the afternoon, we followed the Liberian Red Cross. They have a list of people who died and they go to their communities to collect the bodies. Every time the Red Cross workers do the same thing: they wear protective clothing, interview the family, spray the perimeter and the room, and the body. They carefully open the body bag, carry the body outside for pick up — sprayers and volunteers facing each other — and later remove their protective clothing as carefully as they can. Their work is measured, slow: any direct contact with the dead person’s body can be dangerous. In this photo, it is all about the gesture. In this chlorinated, silent corridor, there is little else that can convey humanity besides this gesture. This is one human helping another.” Benedicte Kurzen—NOOR

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Korpo Klay watches as a Liberian health department burial team prepares to enter the home of her deceased cousin Kormassa Kaba, who was suspected of dying of the Ebola virus on Aug. 14, 2014 in Monrovia. John Moore—Getty Images

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John Moore is a staff photographer with Getty Images.

To get Ebola, you’d have to get these fluids in your mouth, nose, eyes, genitals, or a break in your skin. You could also pick it up from items that have fluids on them, like needles or sheets.

LightBox: Did you have any preconceived notions about this trip that either turned out to be false or skewed? Or has it been quite as you expected?

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Ebola virus causes an especially vicious illness with a fatality rate as high as 90 percent. The effects are gruesome and often bloody, but the virus is transmitted only through close contact with blood and other bodily fluids. Still, working with those infected by the virus, and especially those killed by it, requires extreme care.

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LightBox: You’re coming into very close contact with people who are infected or have died from Ebola. How did you prepare for a trip like this? What kind of gear are you wearing around and how concerned are you about accidentally contracting the virus, even though it’s not airborne? And how did those preparations adapt after you arrived?

Tommy Trenchard, Aug. 20, 2014. Monrovia, Liberia. “What’s tragic about the case of 15-year-old Shackie Kamara is how needlessly he died. [He was shot in the legs during clashes with police]. Ebola didn’t kill him, but the fear, panic and confusion it creates led to the circumstances in which he died. He is a symbol of what Ebola can do to a country or a community. The quarantine of West Point was heavily criticized and lifted shortly afterwards. It achieved little, and Ebola remains rife throughout the city. It is also telling that he died of a treatable wound. After health staff started getting ill and hospitals became seen as sites of infection, the whole health system collapsed. If you get sick or injured in Monrovia, there is simply nowhere to go.” Tommy Trenchard—NPR

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