Journalist with Ebola arrives at Nebraska hospital

AP News
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Posted: Oct 06, 2014 1:09 PM
Journalist with Ebola arrives at Nebraska hospital

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An American video journalist who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia arrived Monday at a Nebraska hospital where he will be treated for the deadly disease.

Ashoka Mukpo, 33, will be kept in a specialized containment unit at the Nebraska Medical Center that was built specifically to handle this type of illness.

Mukpo was working in Liberia as a freelance cameraman for NBC News when he became ill last week. He is the fifth American with Ebola to return to the U.S. for treatment during the latest outbreak, which the World Health Organization estimates has killed more than 3,400 people.

Meanwhile, a Liberian man with Ebola who started showing symptoms while visiting the U.S. is in critical condition at a Dallas hospital.

Mukpo was able to walk off the plane under his own power Monday before being loaded onto a stretcher for the ambulance ride to the hospital.

His parents said they tried to talk him out of going to Liberia last month, but he could not be dissuaded.

His father, Dr. Mitchell Levy, said his son wanted to help the people of Liberia because he lived there for two years while working with a nonprofit.

It's not clear how Mukpo was infected, but Levy said it may have happened when he helped clean a vehicle someone died in.

During his treatment, his parents will have to rely on a video chat system in his hospital room to communicate with him.

Meanwhile in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry said he would create a state task force to ensure Texas responds to infectious diseases like the Ebola virus.

The Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response will be overseen by Dr. Brett Giroir, the CEO of Texas A&M Health Science Center. It will develop rapid-response plans if an outbreak is confirmed in the state.

Perry also called on federal officials to implement screening procedures at all U.S. points of entry. Screeners would take travelers' temperature and conduct other assessments to determine their overall health.

Doctors at the Nebraska isolation unit — the largest of four in the U.S. — will evaluate Mukpo before determining how to treat him. They said they will apply the lessons learned while treating American aid worker Rick Sacra, who was allowed to return home to Massachusetts after three weeks, on Sept. 25.

Sacra received an experimental drug called TKM-Ebola, as well as two blood transfusions from another American aid worker who recovered from Ebola at an Atlanta hospital. The transfusions are believed to help a patient fight off the virus because the survivor's blood carries antibodies for the disease.

But doctors have said they can't be sure what helped Sacra recover because he was receiving multiple treatments.

Sacra was admitted Saturday to UMass Memorial Medical Center after he came in complaining about a cough and low-grade fever and was put in isolation as a precaution. The hospital said weekend test results came back negative for Ebola, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that Sacra's symptoms were not caused by the virus.

In Dallas, another man who recently traveled to the U.S. from Liberia was listed in critical condition Sunday. Thomas Eric Duncan has been hospitalized at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital since Sept. 28.

Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC's director, said he was aware that Duncan's health had "taken a turn for the worse," but he declined to describe Duncan's condition further.

The virus that causes Ebola is not airborne and can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids — blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen — of an infected person who is showing symptoms.

Duncan arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20 and fell ill a few days later. Officials say 10 people definitely had close contact with Duncan and 38 others may have been around him when he was showing symptoms of the disease.

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Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Dallas and Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas, contributed to this report.