Ashoka Mukpo, the NBC News freelancer who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia and was declared virus-free Tuesday after treatment in the United States, says he’s still feeling the effects of his battle with the disease — but doesn’t regret his decision to work there.
"I mean, there's definitely some physical effects of this that I think are gonna last a while. But I can feel my strength coming back every day," Mukpo, 33, told NBC News in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
"And, I mean, there was a period of time that I was quite sick. And, you know, I was laying in a hospital bed and had no strength. Had various pains. And — and just all kinds of fun stuff going on in my body."
Mukpo doesn’t know exactly how and when he contracted the deadly disease in the weeks prior to his diagnosis in early October.
"That's the million dollar question. And unfortunately there's not a satisfactory answer for it," he said.
A blood test confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday showed that Mukpo — one of eight Americans to have been diagnosed with Ebola — no longer has the virus in his bloodstream and was free to head home to Rhode Island.
Mukpo first went into the Nebraska Medical Center on Oct. 6 after being flown from the Liberian capital of Monrovia on a specially outfitted plane.
In his treatment, Mukpo received the antiviral medication Brincidofovir and blood from Dr. Kent Brantly, the first American who was flown back to the U.S. after contracting the virus.
"For me to kind of know that I got sick, and then was so fortunate to receive the kind of care that I got, when so many people have nothing even approximating slightly that kind of care — you know, it's a heavy feeling. I don't know if 'guilt' is the right word. But it — it just feels like something isn't right about that" said Mukpo.
And he said, while the experience will make him consider taking less risks in the future, he doesn't regret going to Liberia to cover the outbreak that has killed more than 4,800 people worldwide, mostly in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
"I mean, you know, as a journalist, and as somebody who had a relationship to that country, it's not something that I will look back on and say, you know, it was the wrong decision to do," he said.
"I mean, I think it's important in life to take risks for things that you believe in. But it's also important to keep yourself safe. So, I mean, it's hard to call Ebola a learning experience. But I think that I'm gonna walk away from this with some important lessons for the future."
— with Hasani Gittens