Ebola patient Ashoka Mukpo is now virus-free; Nina Pham improving
American journalist Ashoka Mukpo no longer has Ebola, health officials announced Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Texas nurse and Ebola patient Nina Pham’s condition was upgraded to “good” from “fair,” and Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced the opening of a new Ebola healthcare facility near Dallas.
Mukpo, 33, tested negative for the deadly virus, and on Wednesday he will be allowed to leave the biocontainment unit at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, the medical center said.
The Rhode Island native was working for NBC News and Vice News in Liberia when he became ill. He was transported to the United States, arriving at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha on Oct. 6.
“The knowledge that there’s no more virus in my blood is a profound relief,” Mukpo said on Twitter. “I’m so lucky. Wish everyone who got sick could feel this.”
News of Pham’s improvement also came Tuesday afternoon. The 26-year-old nurse was diagnosed with Ebola this month after taking care of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed on U.S. soil, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. She stayed in isolation in the hospital for nearly a week and was transferred Thursday to a National Institutes of Health clinic in Bethesda, Md., for further treatment.
In announcing the improvement of Pham’s condition, the clinic also said she “has expressed her gratitude for everyone’s concerns and well wishes.” It did not provide further details.
Earlier in the day, Texas Gov. Perry announced the opening of a new facility with staff equipped and trained to respond quickly to any new cases of Ebola, a move designed to relieve Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital from the front line of treatment.
“In the event of another diagnosis, this facility will allow us to act quickly to limit the virus’ reach and give patients the care they need in an environment where healthcare workers are specially trained and equipped to deal with the unique requirements of this disease,” Perry said during a briefing at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
The biocontainment unit will be one of two in the state, joining a facility at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston that has handled infectious diseases for more than a decade, Perry said.
The new unit will be housed in a vacant Methodist Hospital building in nearby Richardson and will be staffed by University of Texas Southwestern and Dallas’ Parkland Hospital, Perry said.
Notably absent from the partnership was Texas Health Presbyterian, which saw Pham, as well as another nurse, diagnosed with the virus. Nurse Amber Vinson, 29, is being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Perry compared the Ebola response to a “military operation,” saying it was time to give Presbyterian a break “to give them some relief.”
“That hospital has been on the front line. They have paid a very heavy price,” he said.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat who has been directing the local response, agreed.
“They are tired and it would be inhumane and not in their best interest or in anyone else’s to force them into this,” Jenkins said of Texas Health Presbyterian.
Statewide, 60 people who had come into contact with Duncan, who died from the virus, have completed a 21-day monitoring period and are Ebola-free. Another 112, many of them healthcare workers, are still under monitoring. The final day of monitoring in Texas is expected to be Nov. 7.
“We all hope that the steps we are taking today will be precautionary and that this team will not be called upon to treat another patient with Ebola,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Doctors at Tuesday’s briefing stressed that the new facility will not be part of a functioning hospital, so patients at other campuses of Methodist Hospital or University of Texas Southwestern will not be affected. Presbyterian’s emergency room has repeatedly been placed on diversion, with ambulances sent to other hospitals.
The doctors said staff, including a “pathogen strike team” from Parkland Hospital, will be equipped with personal protective suits and equipment and trained to use them. Treatment teams will be small, they said, to minimize staff exposure. State officials said they and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also stepped up safety protocols.
“The entire climate and the awareness has changed with the first Ebola patient,” said Dr. Brett Giroir, head of a state infectious disease task force, adding that the Dallas cases have “catalyzed people’s preparedness.”
Molly Hennessy-Fiske reported from Dallas and Raab from Los Angeles.
Follow @mollyhf on Twitter for national news.
The Latinx experience chronicled
Get the Latinx Files newsletter for stories that capture the multitudes within our communities.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.