Surviving Ebola: A Rhode Island Journalist's Road To Recovery

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Ashoka Mukpo is lucky to be back home in Rhode Island. In fact, he's lucky to be alive.

Mukpo is a freelance journalist who contracted the Ebola virus while working in Liberia. Doctors Without Borders treated him in Monrovia before he was flown to a hospital in Nebraska, where he spent 16 days in isolation.

He's one of just eight Americans to be diagnosed with Ebola. Now he's back home in Providence, Ebola-free.


Ashoka Mukpo, Rhode Island journalist successfully treated for Ebola. He tweets @unkyoka.


On contracting Ebola:
Ashoka Mukpo:
"I had been working all day with an NBC crew and I was feeling fine. And then I had to go to an interview with a CDC person and I got in a car and I noticed that I had a slight backache and I thought, ‘Well, that’s kind of funny.’ Usually we’d been taking our temperature two times a day when we’re out there. So, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to stop by my apartment and maybe just take my temperature and make sure everything was okay...It came back with a fever of 101.3. So, pretty much as soon as that happened, you know, I realized that there was definitely cause for concern and I started reaching out to the people I thought could give me some advice on what to do next. But it was definitely a frightening moment.”

On what it feels like to have Ebola:
“In the initial days when I was in Monrovia, most of the symptoms had to do with being just very weak, having a very bad fever, there were various pains that would go through my body. You know, I know it sounds kind of silly but it was almost like a really, really bad flu...I used to remember all of these folks who were going through treatment in Liberia who would lie down on the gravel, in front of these treatment centers, waiting to be admitted. And I used to look at them and think, ‘Gosh, these people can’t even sit up.’ And then when I got sick, I completely knew how they felt. You have no energy. It completely saps you.”

On recovering from the virus:
Ashoka Mukpo:
“It’s taking a little bit of time for me to feel like I’m at back 100 percent, but I actually feel like my strength is pretty good right now. And, every day, things are getting better and better. I think I’m lucky that my body is healing as quickly as it is.”

On covering Ebola compared to covering war zones:
“All the journalists who were there would talk about our fears, you know. And some of us would say, ‘Well, I’d rather be doing air strikes than Ebola.’ There was folks who had been in war zones and really difficult places and it felt like those stresses of covering an outbreak was actually greater than some of those things that they did...Most of us felt like we were safe, not touching people, taking precautions. But there was still that moment of fear when you put a thermometer in your mouth and you’re thinking, ‘I hope it doesn’t go up past 98.6.’”

On the next steps to assist West Africa:
“I think the thing is that with the situation in these other countries, is actually — it’s possible to address it. There’s a need for materials, there’s a need for manpower and there’s a need for attention to continued to be paid on thinking about solutions and putting resources into getting things under control.”

On U.S. reaction to volunteers returning from Ebola-affected areas:
“Some of the...strict quarantine measures I think that Govs. Christie and Cuomo have put in place in New Jersey and New York are just very counter-productive. So, you know, you have this nurse sayings she feels like she was treated like a criminal. Anything that makes it more difficult for health care workers to go over there and treat people is ultimately going to make it worse for us. So if we can’t find ways to...contain the outbreak and to save lives in West Africa, that actually heightens the possibility that people are going to travel to our country...and these situations might come up. But then again, when you look at it, the chances that Dr. Spencer actually infected anybody else when he was sick are so low that I feel like it’s almost impossible. So it’s important that we look at the facts and the science and don’t just get lost in panic about this whole thing.”

On returning to Liberia as a journalist:
“I think I don’t have any immediate plans to return to Liberia. I think it’s more just very long-term personal and professional connection to the country and I have some lifelong friends there. So, it’s difficult for me to imagine that I’m going to go too long without dropping in. But for now, I’m going to take care of my health and I think my girlfriend will probably, you know, get me kidnapped if I try to jump on a plane and go to Liberia right now.”


The Boston Globe: Rhode Island Journalist Who Survived Ebola Grateful For Recovery

  • "In Liberia, Mukpo witnessed “people in desperate, immediate need of medical attention who were turned away...pleading for help” because the hospitals were full. “It’s just an accident of birth,” Mukpo said, that he was flown to one of four specialized units in the United States."

Associated Press: U.S. Journalist Ashoka Mukpo Says His Body Was 'At War' With Ebola

  • "The 33-year-old Mukpo recalled taking his temperature, seeing it read 101.3, and feeling "pure fear." Being diagnosed with Ebola, Mukpo said, forced him to confront the possibility of his own death, and made him understand the terror and isolation so many West Africans are going through."

This article was originally published on October 27, 2014.

This segment aired on October 27, 2014.


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