Ashoka Mukpo, the freelance cameraman diagnosed with Ebola while working for NBC News in Liberia, was there because he cared so deeply about the country, his mother told NECN on Friday.
"Ashoka feels tremendously connected to the Liberian people, and really, after coming home from his work there this summer, when he heard about the extent of the Ebola outbreak, he felt compelled to go back," his mother Diana Mukpo told NECN from her Providence home. "He wanted to document the impact that this is having socially and economically."
Mukpo, 33, is being treated in the Liberian capital of Monrovia until he can be returned to the United States on Sunday. He will be treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where he is expected to arrive early next week and will be treated by the same team that treated Dr. Rick Sacra.
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Chad Bilyeu, a friend and former classmate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., told NECN about the men’s shared passion for hip-hip and about Mukpo’s desire to help people. They had recently kept in touch on social media.
"Ashoka's like a brother," Bilyeu said. “I just always knew him as a very thoughtful, caring person. I saw that the studies, and his interest in Africa, was very altruistic."
After Ashoka Mukpo began showing symptoms of Ebola, he quarantined himself and was tested at a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Monrovia. The U.S. State Department is to fly him to the United States on Sunday, Diana Mukpo said. He is in the early stages of the disease, she said.
"There's no way to feel alright about it. It's incredibly stressful," she said. "We're getting him the best medical care we can, but it's only stress and anxiety for all of us."
She and her husband, Dr. Mitchell Levy, have been speaking with their son throughout the day, she said.
Ashoka Mukpo was hired on Tuesday as a second cameraman for NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman in Liberia.
The NBC team, which had shared a work space, vehicles and equipment, also are returning to the United States and will quarantine and monitor themselves, Snyderman said. But she said everyone had taken strict precautions against the illness and she thought the risk of the others becoming sick was extremely low.
The cameraman is the second New Englander to be diagnosed with Ebola after Dr. Sacra, who is recovering at his home in Holden, Massachusetts. Sacra was also treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
NECN will have more as this story develops.