The freelance NBC News cameraman who was diagnosed in Liberia with the Ebola virus is scared but “enormously relieved” to have arrived at a Nebraska hospital for treatment, his parents said at a Monday news conference. Ashoka Mukpo — the sixth American to be infected with the virus that has killed more than 3,500 people in west Africa — walked onto and off the jet that took him from Liberia to Omaha, where he was whisked to Nebraska Medical Center by ambulance Monday morning.
“He’s enormously relieved to be here,” his mother, Diana Mukpo told reporters. “Of course, it’s still quite frightening, but he’s hanging in.” The patient’s father, Dr. Mitchell Levy, said he thought his son looked strong as he got off the plane and “gingerly waved to us” before paramedics in protective suits put him on a gurney. “His symptoms are not more advanced when I talked to him before he left,” he said, but added that they expect his condition to worsen at some point. Levy told NBC News his son will receive one of the experimental — or "investigational" — treatments for the virus.
Both parents said they had tried to talk Mukpo, 33, out of returning to Liberia, where he had spent two years working with an aid group. “I asked him if he was crazy and did everything I could…to dissuade him,” Levy said. Diana Mukpo added, “I begged him from a mother's perspective. I said, ‘Please don’t go.’" They said he realized the risks but insisted on going.
Mukpo was hired Tuesday to be a second cameraman for NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman. He tested positive for Ebola on Thursday and thinks he may have been infected prior to that when he was helping spray down a vehicle used to transport a victim. Doctors at the Nebraska Medical Center — which successfully treated American doctor Rick Sacra for Ebola — said they have not decided on a treatment plan, or whether to use experimental protocols, on Mukpo. One drug used on two other Americans who recovered will not be available for weeks.
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— Tracy Connor