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NBC's chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman spoke out Wednesday about the fallout from violating her voluntary Ebola quarantine, apologizing for "scaring my community" and adding to the confusion and chaos surrounding the deadly virus.
"I’m very sorry for not only scaring my community and the country, but adding to the confusion of terms that I think came as fast and furious as the news about Ebola did," she told TODAY's Matt Lauer in her first appearance since breaking the self-imposed 21-day period of isolation.
More than two months ago, Snyderman traveled to Liberia to report on the Ebola crisis. While there, Ashoka Mukpo, a photojournalist working with her team contracted the virus. Snyderman agreed to the voluntary self-quarantine before she returned to the United States.
"I wear two hats — I have my doctor hat and I have my journalist hat, and when the science and the messaging sometimes collide, and you leave the optics, in this case a hot zone and come back to the United States, good people can make mistakes," she said. "I stepped outside the boundaries of what I promised to do and what the public expected of me, and for that I’m sorry."
While in Liberia, Snyderman and her team already were monitoring their vitals and taking their temperatures “four, five, six times a day,” she said.
“We knew the risks in our head but didn’t really appreciate, and frankly we were not sensitive to, how absolutely frightened Americans were,” she said.
Snyderman returned home during a period when there was mass confusion about Ebola, how it spreads and how the virus could be contained. The way medical officials talked about the virus was crucial, and she said she hopes her actions don't make it more difficult to report about Ebola developments.
"I would go back tomorrow and so would my entire team," she said. "My concern is that this has been a distraction from the real issue at hand. We can’t afford to not to concentrate on West Africa."
Snyderman described tragic scenes she witnessed in Liberia — including the sick being delivered to hospitals in hospitals in wheelbarrows or women giving birth in the middle of the street.
"This epidemic is not going to away, the Ebola epidemic, and there will be viruses in the future that will jump from animals to humans, so how do we message from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to NBC News to me personally?" she said. "I’ve learned a lot through this, but we have to remember that we live in a smaller world day by day and this may be a big lesson for all of us in how we treat epidemics in the future and how we message better and how we keep our promises."
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