Earlier this month, a West Africa-based cameraman by the name of Ashoka Mukpo contracted Ebola while shooting for NBC News in Liberia. Mukpo had been hired to accompany the network’s chief medical editor, Nancy Snyderman, as she reported on the deadly virus, which, according to CDC reporting, has already claimed at least 4,033 lives. (According to the CDC, there had been 4656 “laboratory-confirmed cases” as of October 10, resulting in 4,033 deaths. The CDC also estimates that new Ebola cases could soar to 10,000 a week in the near future.)
When it became known that Mukpo had been infected, he was sent to Nebraska for treatment, and the rest of the NBC crew, who had been working in close proximity to him, agreed to enter voluntary isolation for a period of a few week’s time. (Those infected with Ebola typically begin to show symptoms within 21 days.) In spite of this quarantine agreement, however, it was reported yesterday that Snyderman was seen in a car near her Princeton, New Jersey home, waiting for her companion to bring food to her from a local restaurant. Snyderman, to her credit, did not dispute the charge, and has since been ordered into mandatory quarantine. Last night, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams read a statement from Snyderman, saying that she was sorry for what she’d done. Here’s a clip:
“While under voluntary quarantine guidelines, which called for our team to avoid public contact for 21 days, members of our group violated those guidelines and understand that our quarantine is now mandatory until 21 days have passed… We remain healthy and our temperatures are normal. As a health professional I know that we have no symptoms and pose no risk to the public, but I am deeply sorry for the concerns this episode caused.”
With all due respect to Nancy Snyderman, I hope that she loses her medical license immediately, as well as the ability to ever again walk onto the set of a network news soundstage as a respected representative of the medical community. The thought that she could so cavalierly go out for a sandwich after having given her word to stay isolated, and just days after we’d seen our first death from Ebola in this country, absolutely sickens me, and you can be sure that I will write to any future employers that she may have, reminding them not only of her serious lapse of judgement, but of the way she attempted to shift the blame after the fact, refusing to take any responsibility for her actions, saying instead that “members of (her) group” violated “guidelines.” And, just to be clear, it wasn’t “members of her group” that violated protocol. It was her. And these weren’t “guidelines” that Snyderman violated as she went out shopping with her male companion. Public health officials didn’t suggest to her that she stay away from people. They made her promise to stay isolated for 21 days from the point of contact, to ensure that the virulent disease, if she did have it, wouldn’t get a foothold in the United States.
Speaking of the 21-day incubation period, how dare she say, “As a health professional I know that we have no symptoms and pose no risk to the public,” knowing full well that even those infected don’t present with symptoms for several weeks. She should be fired for this statement alone.
Yes, I know that she likely isn’t infected, but that’s not the point. The point is that she thought that she knew better than public health professionals because she’s a wealthy, successful surgeon turned celebrity. She thought that the rules didn’t apply to her. And she knowingly put lives at risk as a result… And I find that sickening, especially when so many truly heroic doctors are giving their lives in Africa right now to stop the spread of this deadly virus. (It’s being reported today that 16 members of Doctors Without Border have been infected with Ebola, 9 of whom have already died.)
[edit: For what it's worth, yes, I know that people aren't contagious until such point that they become symptomatic. Public health protocol, however, is in place so that people who may have the virus don't become symptomatic while in public. So, just to be clear, I did not think that Snyderman was "infecting" people in Princeton by being out of her home. As I point out in the post, I realize it's unlikely that she has the virus. And, even if she did, it's highly unlikely that she'd become symptomatic while running errands this past weekend. My point, however, is that she should know better. The protocol may be inconvenient, but it's necessary.]