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Condition of Ebola-stricken RI man expected to worsen

OMAHA — The second Ebola patient to be treated in Nebraska remained in good spirits today upon his arrival in the Midwest, his parents said, but his condition was expected to worsen as he entered a critical phase of the illness.

Ashoka Mukpo, a 33-year-old who grew up in Providence, was taken by ambulance this morning to Nebraska Medical Center, where he will receive treatment in a 10-bed biocontainment unit said to be the largest in the country.

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Mukpo’s symptoms on arrival included fever and nausea, said his father, Dr. Mitchell Levy, who traveled from Rhode Island with his wife to be present as their son began treatment. Mukpo walked off the plane at Eppley Airfield and was later wheeled into the hospital on a gurney.

“He’s enormously relieved to be here,” his mother, Diana Mukpo, said. “Of course, it’s still quite frightening, but he’s hanging in.”

Mukpo was working as a freelance cameraman for NBC News in Liberia when he became ill last week.

He is the fifth American to return to the United States for treatment during the outbreak, which has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa.

Because the infection was caught early, Mukpo’s condition will probably deteriorate before improving, said his father, who is director of the medical intensive care unit at Rhode Island Hospital.

“It is likely he will go into the next phase where his symptoms will get worse,” Levy said.

Officials at the Nebraska hospital said the successful treatment of another patient there, Massachusetts physician Dr. Richard Sacra, would yield lessons for

the medical staff of about 40 who will be treating the new patient. Preliminary treatment will be focused on controlling symptoms and making sure Mukpo gets enough fluids, doctors said.

“There is really no substitute for firsthand experience,” said Dr. Brad Britigan, dean of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. “Having experienced this in one case, it’s going to be very helpful.”

Sacra was successfully treated in Omaha and was allowed to return to his home in Holden, Mass., on Sept. 25. He received an experimental drug called TKM-Ebola, in addition to a blood transfusion from an American aid worker who was treated for the disease in an Atlanta hospital.

Doctors said all options are on the table for Mukpo, who on Monday was undergoing preliminary evaluations.

His parents said he returned to Liberia in September after working for a nongovernmental organization there for two years. He had returned to the United States in May.

His parents warned him against going back, his mother pleading with him not to go.

“When he told me, I asked him if he was crazy,” Levy recalled.

Mukpo said he may have become infected while spray-washing a car in which a person had died, the father said.

His parents held a short video chat with their son before Monday’s news conference.

“It was an enormous relief to be able to see his face,” the mother said.

Levy said his son looked strong, adding that earlier in the morning he walked off the plane and “gingerly waved to us.”

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