Last year, several outbreaks of the monkey pox virus claimed lives last year, so a group of international scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention partnered with local experts in the Congo Republic to try to discover the origin of it.

Washington Post reporter Lena Sun and photographer Melina Mara went with the virus hunters to document their search.

“As we traveled in dugouts and small boats up the Ubangi River that twisted into the Motaba, we passed villages full of curious souls wondering who and what we were,” Mara said.

“We were like the circus coming to town. … The people we encountered up the river did not know our mission,” she continued. “Their faces were full of different questions. They called to us over and over again, but we couldn’t stop. We were chasing our own questions.”

This is a selection of scenes Mara photographed as the team traveled along the Congolese rivers.

Villagers gather along the Motaba River in the Dongou region of the Congo Republic as a team of international scientists and local experts motor past. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Villagers gather along the Motaba River in the Dongou region of the Congo Republic as a team of international scientists and local experts motor past. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Reflections from the sky in the Ubangi River in Impfondo. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Reflections from the sky in the Ubangi River in Impfondo. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
A village on the Motaba River in the Dongou region. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
A village on the Motaba River in the Dongou region. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Women and boats along the banks of the Motaba River. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Women and boats along the banks of the Motaba River. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Village residents travel by boat along the Motaba River. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Village residents travel by boat along the Motaba River. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
A captain and his boat along the Motaba River. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
A captain and his boat along the Motaba River. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Youngsters play in the Ubangi River. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Youngsters play in the Ubangi River. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Along the Motaba River. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Along the Motaba River. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

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