Now that the seal has been broken, the American Ebola cases are coming fast and furious, and a few days after the first case of the deadly disease made its way to US soil, overnight we learned that an American cameraman helping to cover the Ebola outbreak in Liberia for NBC News has tested positive for the virus and will be flown back to the United States for treatment.
The news broke late last night, when NBC reported that the freelancer, Ashoka Mukpo, 33, was hired Tuesday to be a second cameraman for NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman. Snyderman is with three other NBC News employees on assignment in Monrovia, reporting on the Ebola outbreak.
Mukpo came down with symptoms on Wednesday, feeling tired and achy. As part of a routine temperature check, he discovered he was running a slight fever. He immediately quarantined himself and sought medical advice. On Thursday morning, Mukpo went to a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) treatment center to be tested for the virus. The positive result came back just under 12 hours later.
"The good news is this young man, our colleague, was admitted very, very early," Snyderman told Rachel Maddow Thursday evening. "He's in good spirits." The better news is that he was isolated while still offshore, meaning he will enter the US under controlled terms.
Snyderman added she and the other members of the NBC News team are feeling well and not showing symptoms of the Ebola virus but are going beyond CDC guidelines for their and others' safety.
Mukpo will be the fifth American infected with Ebola and evacuated from West Africa. He has been working in Liberia on various projects for the past three years.
"The doctors are optimistic about his prognosis," Mukpo's father, Mitchell Levy, said in a message to family and friends. Levy said his son, who also is a writer, "has been engaged with human rights work in West Africa for the last several years. When the Ebola outbreak occurred he felt compelled to return to Liberia to help shed light on how the crisis was being handled socially and politically."
In a note to staff, NBC News President Deborah Turness said: "We are doing everything we can to get him the best care possible. He will be flown back to the United States for treatment at a medical center that is equipped to handle Ebola patients.
"We are also taking all possible measures to protect our employees and the general public," Turness added in the note. "The rest of the crew, including Dr. Nancy, are being closely monitored and show no symptoms or warning signs. However, in an abundance of caution, we will fly them back on a private charter flight and then they will place themselves under quarantine in the United States for 21 days — which is at the most conservative end of the spectrum of medical guidance."
American aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were infected in July while working for Samaritan’s Purse in Monrovia. Last month, Dr. Rick Sacra was diagnosed with the virus after working at a local hospital in Liberia. A U.S. physician who had been working for the World Health Organization and who has not been named is being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan is currently being treated for Ebola at a hospital in Dallas. In addition, a U.S. physician who was exposed to Ebola in Sierra Leone is under observation at the National Institutes of Health.
Here is the full text of Turness’ note to NBC News staff:
As you know, Dr. Nancy Snyderman and our news team are in Liberia covering the Ebola outbreak. One of the members of their crew is an American freelance cameraman who has worked in Liberia for the past three years and has recently been covering the epidemic for US media outlets. On Tuesday he began working with our team. Today, he tested positive for Ebola.
We are doing everything we can to get him the best care possible. He will be flown back to the United States for treatment at a medical center that is equipped to handle Ebola patients. We are consulting with the CDC, Medicins Sans Frontieres and others. And we are working with Dr. Nancy on the ground in Liberia.
We are also taking all possible measures to protect our employees and the general public. The rest of the crew, including Dr. Nancy, are being closely monitored and show no symptoms or warning signs. However, in an abundance of caution, we will fly them back on a private charter flight and then they will place themselves under quarantine in the United States for 21 days – which is at the most conservative end of the spectrum of medical guidance.
We know you share our concern for our colleagues and we will continue to keep you up to date and informed. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me or David Verdi with any questions.
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