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NBC News crew who worked with Ebola patient quarantined after violating agreement to self-confine

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Posted at 7:36 AM, Oct 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-11 07:42:29-04

(CNN) — An NBC News crew that worked with a cameraman infected with Ebola in Liberia has been ordered to undergo mandatory quarantine after it violated an agreement to self-confine, New Jersey health officials said.

“The NBC crew remains symptom-free, so there is no reason for concern of exposure to the community,” said Donna Leusner, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Health.

The cameraman, Ashoka Mukpo, is undergoing treatment in Omaha, Nebraska, after he was diagnosed with Ebola on October 2.

He was among a team working with Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the news agency’s chief medical correspondent.

The rest of the news team does not have any symptoms, but had said it would quarantine itself as a precaution. On Friday, it was ordered to a 21-day mandatory quarantine — the disease’s incubation period.

Another Ebola scare

An ambulance ride in New York City on Friday was yet another reminder.

Emergency rooms around the United States are gearing up for Ebola patients — and for people who think they have the deadly virus.

The Brooklyn patient had Ebola like symptoms, the New York Fire Department said. The teen, who had just returned from the African country of Sudan, the New York Daily News reported, was undergoing tests.

The Ebola outbreak is on the other side of the continent, as far away as Atlanta is from Los Angeles.

The outbreak has been limited to West Africa while Sudan is in North Africa.

And the New York Health Department told CNN that there are currently no patients suspected of having Ebola in New York City.

Still, fear of the disease has bred much caution.

Worry raises hospital visits

“I have seen several people who had acute illnesses worried that they may have Ebola,” said Dr. Mark Reiter.

He works as an emergency room doctor in Tennessee. He’s also president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine.

Reiter says patients in his state are unlikely candidates, not having been to West Africa, nor having had any contact with a symptomatic Ebola patient.

“But it has gotten a tremendous amount of media coverage and some people are especially concerned about it, even if it is highly unlikely,” Reiter said.

Emergency rooms typically see a small uptick in traffic after a disease has been in the news a lot.

A 2010 study that looked at emergency room traffic when swine flu was in the news saw a 7% increase in emergency room visits.

Parents must also have been worried about their children catching it as pediatric visits increased 19.7%.

A recent Pew study showed 21% of respondents are somewhat worried about Ebola and their personal health.

Outbreak is in Africa

The death toll in the Ebola outbreak is 4,033, the World Health Organization reported. There are 8,399 cases.

The numbers were reported from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States.

But there have only been a handful of cases in Senegal, Nigeria, Spain and the United States.

A total of 416 health care workers fighting the outbreak in Africa are among those believed to have contracted Ebola. Of those, 233 have died, the WHO says.

American cases

An American aid worker who contracted Ebola in Liberia and overcame the virus was said to have become infected while treating Ebola patients there.

Nancy Writebol was working with Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia, caring for Ebola patients, when she became ill and was eventually transferred to an Atlanta hospital, where she recovered.

The belief has been that she contracted Ebola while working in a clinic with infected patients, but the survivor said that isn’t necessarily the point of infection.

“Well, it’s very possible that I contracted Ebola outside of the (medical) unit, not within,” Writebol said. “Of course, I came in contact with people outside of our hospital, and I remember knowing and being with a gentleman one time that later died of Ebola. And it’s possible that there was, you know, some contact there.”

Writebol was released from Emory University Hospital on August 19, once doctors determined she posed “no public health threat.”

Only one U.S. death

The sole person to be diagnosed with the virus on American soil, Thomas Eric Duncan, died this week, as new details of his hospitalization were revealed. He had traveled from Liberia last month.

On Friday, Duncan’s nephew, Josephus Weeks, told CNN that Duncan had a 103-degree fever when he left the hospital, according to the discharge papers.

Weeks alleged that the fact Duncan was black, poor and didn’t have insurance affected his care.

“Had that been another or another color, he probably would be living today, he would have survived it,” Weeks said.

While it hasn’t responded to these latest allegations, Dallas’ Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital did issue a statement Thursday explaining and defending its treatment of Duncan.

He wasn’t immediately given an experimental drug, because one wasn’t available, the hospital said.

“His blood type was not compatible with the serum donors,” making a blood transfusion impossible.

More than 50 people cared for him and a 24-bed intensive care unit was devoted to his care, the hospital said.

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