MONROVIA- A US television network prepared Friday to evacuate a cameraman who contracted Ebola in Liberia, as the UN’s pointman flew to Sierra Leone, calling the epidemic the world’s “highest priority”.
Ashoka Mukpo, 33, who was working as a freelancer for NBC news, discovered he was running a fever on Wednesday, his network said, and is in quarantine in a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) treatment centre.
Hired by NBC only three days ago, he is the fourth American to contract Ebola in Liberia.
“The doctors are optimistic about his prognosis,” Mukpo’s father Mitchell Levy said in a message to family and friends quoted by NBC, adding that his son had worked on humanitarian projects in Liberia for several years.
By far the most deadly epidemic of Ebola on record has spread into five west African countries since the start of the year, infecting more than 7,000 people and killing about half of them.
The virus, spread through infected bodily fluids, can only be transmitted when a patient is experiencing the symptoms — severe fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in some cases, massive internal hemorrhaging and external bleeding.
The alarming rate at which the contagion is spreading has triggered international action to help battle the outbreak.
On Friday, the US military announced that it now expects to ramp up the number of troops deployed to Liberia to help fight the outbreak to nearly 4,000, up from a planned 3,000-strong force.
Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission on Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), travelled to Sierra Leone on Friday for the second leg of a tour of the three hardest-hit nations.
“The only way we will end this crisis is if we end every single last case of Ebola so there is no more risk of transmission to anyone, and when that’s accomplished, UNMEER will go home,” he told journalists on Thursday in the Liberian capital Freetown.
The UN envoy said he was intent on contributing to “the highest priority for the international community — for the whole world, not just the United Nations”.
The World Health Organization said in its latest situation update there was still a “significant shortfall” in capacity in west Africa, with 1,500 more beds needed in Liberia and 450 in Sierra Leone.
Around 160 health professionals pledged by Cuba to Sierra Leone arrived Thursday, reported an AFP correspondent at the airport near Freetown.
Britain has pledged £120 million ($190 million, 150 million euros) to help build an estimated 700 treatment beds, fund new community treatment centres, support existing public health services and support aid agencies in Sierra Leone.