NEW: "Obviously, he is scared," Ashoka Mukpo's father says
Mukpo, 33, started feeling achy and tired Wednesday
He was diagnosed with Ebola on Thursday in Liberia
His mother says he'll return to the United States on Sunday
Two weeks before he tested positive for Ebola in Liberia, American journalist Ashoka Mukpo talked about the bleak situation there.
An American cameraman working for NBC News in Liberia has tested positive for Ebola, the network reported Thursday.
“How unpredictable and fraught with danger life can be. How in some parts of the world, basic levels of help and assistance that we take for granted completely don’t exist for many people.”
The 33-year-old freelance cameraman for NBC News started feeling achy and tired Wednesday, and he quarantined himself. A day later, a test at a Doctors Without Borders facility in Monrovia confirmed that he had Ebola.
Mukpo was among a team working with Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the agency’s chief medical correspondent.
In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show Friday, his mother said he’ll leave for the United States on Sunday. NBC News has said the entire team will return aboard a private charter plane.
“The enormous anxiety I have as a mother … is the delay between now and him leaving on Sunday,” Diana Mukpo said. “The State Department has been fantastic. They’ve been compassionate. I can only hope and pray that his symptoms don’t worsen.”
Mukpo’s father told the “Today” show that although he is able to walk around and has only a mild fever, his son is worried.
“Obviously, he is scared … he has been filming what’s happening in Liberia for two weeks and seeing the death and tragedy,” Dr. Mitchell Levy said. “And now it’s really hit home for him. But his spirits are better today.”
Sick a day after he was hired
NBC News hired him Tuesday, and Snyderman said she’d worked with him for only a few hours when he started feeling sick.
“My suspicion is that he was infected before we met him and then he became symptomatic once we met him,” Snyderman said Friday on the “Today” show. “The amount of virus in his body is low. We should have a very good prognosis.”
Before working for NBC, he wrote for a series of other international media, including Al Jazeera and Vice News.
His passion for Liberia comes through in his work, which makes references to visits to the nation dating years ago.
“He spent two years in Monrovia working with a nongovernmental organization, and really made a strong connection to the Liberian people, and … wanted to go back and see if he could make a difference,” Levy said.
Can you catch Ebola on a plane?
Team to be put in isolation
The rest of the medical team does not have any symptoms, but when the team members return to the U.S., they will be quarantined for 21 days – the disease’s incubation period – as a precaution.
The cameraman is believed to be the fourth American stricken by the disease while in Liberia.
Dr. Kent Brantly, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Rick Sacra all contracted the disease while working in the country.
All three recovered after they were evacuated from Liberia and treated at hospitals in Atlanta and Omaha, Nebraska.
Ebola has killed more than 3,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the United Nations says those numbers are vastly under-reported.