AN American freelance cameraman working for NBC News in Liberia has tested positive for Ebola, making him the fifth US citizen and first journalist known to have contracted the virus in West Africa.
The 33-year-old cameraman and writer, who has worked in Liberia for the past three years and has covered the recent Ebola outbreak for US media outlets, will be flown home for treatment, NBC said yesterday.
Four other NBC News team members who have shown no signs of infection will return to the US to undergo a precautionary quarantine.
The outbreak has killed at least 3,300 in West Africa.
NBC declined to give the infected journalist’s name after his family asked for privacy. He began experiencing symptoms on Wednesday.
He was hired on Tuesday to serve as a second cameraman for NBC News’s chief medical editor Dr Nancy Snyderman, who has been with three other network employees on assignment in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.
On feeling sick and discovering he had a slight fever, the cameraman quarantined himself and sought medical advice. He was diagnosed 12 hours later after going to a Médecins Sans Frontières centre.
“We are doing everything we can to get him the best care possible,” NBC News president Deborah Turness told staff, adding that Dr Snyderman and the rest of the crew would be flown back to the US on a private charter plane to go in quarantine for 21 days, which, she said, was “at the most conservative end of the spectrum of medical guidance”.
Dr Snyderman said that the cameraman was thought to have been exposed to Ebola, which can only be passed on through bodily fluids, before starting with NBC.
Dr Snyderman said journalists in Liberia carried thermometers to regularly take their temperatures, avoided handshakes and hugs, washed their hands with diluted bleach, and dipped their feet into bleach solution before entering public places.
The four other Americans infected were doctors or relief workers who were sent back to the US for medical treatment. Aid workers Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol contracted Ebola at a relief agency in Monrovia in July. Last month, Dr Rick Sacra tested positive after working in a Liberian hospital. They have all since been released from hospital.
An unnamed US doctor diagnosed with Ebola in Sierra Leone arrived at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment on 9 September and is still being treated.
A Liberian man visiting relatives in Dallas, Texas, recently became the first Ebola patient to be diagnosed on US soil.
Meanwhile, a woman from Texas who has been confined to her apartment under armed guard after a man infected with Ebola stayed at her home, said yesterday she never imagined this could happen to her so far from disease-ravaged Africa.
Louise Troh said she was tired of being locked up and wanted federal health authorities to decontaminate her home.
Also, a Ugandan doctor who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone arrived in Germany for treatment yesterday.