A freelance cameraman working with NBC in Liberia has tested positive for Ebola, according to the news network. He will be flown back to the US to be treated at Nebraska Medical Center, where American Ebola survivor Rick Sacra got care.
On assignment in Monrovia with NBC News chief medical editor and correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the 33-year-old — identified as Ashoka Mukpo — had been hired to report on the outbreak on Tuesday. He had been working in Liberia for three years, and had been covering the epidemic for other news agencies.
On Wednesday, Ashoka started to feel sick, checked his temperature, and found he was running a mild fever. He reportedly quarantined himself at that point. The next morning, he went to a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treatment center to be tested for the virus and found out 12 hours later that he had been infected, NBC reported.
"Obviously he is scared and worried," Ashoka's father Dr. Mitchell Levy told told the Today show. His son has been "seeing the death and tragedy and now it's really hit home for him. But his spirits are better today."
The crew who had been working with the patient, including Snyderman, are not showing any symptoms of illness but they will be flown back to the US and have voluntarily placed themselves in quarantine as a precautionary measure.
He is the first American journalist to be diagnosed with Ebola in this epidemic. The three other Americans — Kent Brantly, Nancy Writebol, and Richard Sacra — who have come down with the illness were missionaries and health professionals working in Liberia. They were all treated in the US and survived. Brantly and Writebol were treated at Emory Hospital. Sacra was also treated in Nebraska. Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American who got Ebola in Liberia where he worked at the Ministry of Finance, died in Lagos, Nigeria in July.
Here's a letter to staff from NBC News President Deborah Turness:
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.
This is the worst Ebola epidemic in history. More than 3,000 people have died and there are more than 7,000 cases of Ebola. The countries most affected by the disease right now include Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea in West Africa.
To learn more about how the Ebola virus spreads, read our story on how you can — and can't — catch the disease.