Dr. Nancy Snyderman on colleague’s Ebola diagnosis

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Excerpted from the Thursday, October 2, 2014 broadcast of The Rachel Maddow Show

RACHEL MADDOW: Joining us now from Monrovia is Dr. Nancy Snyderman. She’s NBC’s chief medical editor and correspondent. She’s been covering the Ebola outbreak in that country. Her crew there includes this young freelance cameraman who’s now tested positive.

Dr. Nancy, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I’m sure this is a very, very difficult time.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN, NBC NEWS CHIEF MEDICAL EDITOR (via telephone): Hi, Rachel.

It’s been a bumpy day, to say the least.

MADDOW: Yes.

SNYDERMAN: But you got things right. This is a very experienced photojournalist who we hired to augment our team on the field in Monrovia.

And yesterday, he – we were at a border crossing, had our temperature, taken, which is required by law now in most parts of Liberia, when you’re traveling from one area to another. His temperature was normal. My temperature was normal.

As the day went on, he started to feel just tired, a little achy. And, as you know, a lot of times when you’re in the field, you work long days and don’t take very good care of yourself. We just thought perhaps he needed some rest. He signed off early, went home and called me that later than evening with an elevated temperature.

At that point, I suggested and requested that he self-quarantine himself and monitor his temperature by the hour, which he did, and checked in with me.

And this morning, he went to the clinic run Doctors Without Borders, and was checked for malaria, which is very common here, and then also tested positive for Ebola, and he is being kept in the clinic there right now.

The rest of my team, very healthy, we have been extraordinary vigilant. But we are obviously very respectful of this virus, which has killed so many West Africans at this point.

MADDOW: In terms of exposure, we’re told that the range of – the time of exposure to when you start to show symptoms, when you start to show a fever, can be anywhere from two to 21 days. They’re saying the typical reaction is more like eight to nine days. Do you have any inkling or does this young man have any inkling of when his exposure or where his exposure might have been?

SNYDERMAN: Well, we started working with him three days ago. So, I believe his exposure was sometime, you know, previous to that. We all walk, carry thermometers on us. We all also observe the custom now, which is to not shake hands, to not embrace people, to wash hands our hands with diluted bleach water before we enter the hotel. We dip our feet in bleach solution.

I was in an Ebola ward the other day and was in a typical hazmat suit that Americans are now accustomed seeing aid workers in. And after that, was meticulously disrobed by nurses on the ground.

We have really worked hard to minimize our risk. I mean, obviously, zero risk means never coming to Liberia. Minimal risk means crossing over into this country.

But you are right, that it is about eight to 10 days from the time you’re exposed to the time you might show your first symptom, which is usually fever followed by vomiting, achiness and sometimes diarrhea.

The deaths occur because diarrhea and vomiting are so severe that patients basically don’t have enough fluids and then they run into clotting problems and they die for that.

The good news is this young man, our colleague, was admitted to the clinic very, very early. I spoke with him today. He’s in good spirits. He’s ready to get home – of course, appropriately concerned. But he will be airlifted out soon.

And it’s an abundance of caution, we are self-quarantining ourselves, even going beyond the CDC guidelines. So, we recognize that there is a big story back home. And, frankly, we want to be respectful to our colleagues and to the American public.

MADDOW: Dr. Nancy, I just have to ask you, in terms of that self-quarantine and these plans to bring that young man back to the United States for treatment, to bring your crew out, what are you told – what do you expect in terms of your ability to continue to work and what does this mean in terms of your day-to-day life and who you’re able to have contact with and what that’s going to be like now?

SNYDERMAN: Well, because we know that this is not a casually transmitted disease, and because none of the rest of my team has a fever, we have no other symptoms, we really present zero to marginal risk. I mean, I don’t want to say zero because it’s minimal.

Really, you cannot catch Ebola from someone if that person isn’t experiencing symptoms. And symptoms really include looking sick, feeling achy, and being exposed to bodily fluids, vomit, diarrhea, blood, urine, or sweat. We have mitigated those chances by being very careful.

So, our returning to the United States really presents very, very, very little chance of giving it to anyone. And would only be a risk if one of us ends up getting sick.

So, we will be taking our temperatures twice a day, checking in with each other, and if any one of us suddenly spikes a fever or gets symptoms, we will report ourselves to the authorities. We are taking it seriously. But I want people to know that we are well.

MADDOW: Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor and correspondent joining us live from Monrovia, the capital of Liberia tonight – take care. And please give our best wishes to your cameraman and your whole crew going through this. Dr. Nancy, we’ll look forward to seeing you back safe and sound.

Ebola

Dr. Nancy Snyderman on colleague's Ebola diagnosis

Updated