Ebola in Kansas City?

Has a case of Ebola turned up in a patient in Kansas City?

On 5 October 2014, rumors of a suspected case of Ebola in Kansas City, Missouri spread on the internet despite a low
probability the patient involved had been exposed to the virus. Dr. Rex Archer, director of Health at the Kansas City Health Department, said there was no reason to believe the patient had been exposed to or developed Ebola:

“The likelihood we think is very low. No one has caught Ebola from somebody else in this country. It has not spread anywhere in this country,” said Dr. Rex Archer, director of Health at the Kansas City Health Department.

“This person was supposedly in Nigeria and had come here from there but we have no evidence that they were actually where any of the other cases were,” Archer said. The patient’s only Ebola-like symptom was a 102-degree fever on Saturday night.


Ebola was not suspected at the time of the patient’s initial treatment at the facility, but reports still circulated of Ebola quarantines at a local apartment building and the hospital to which the patient had been transported:

At about 9:30 Saturday night, a Kansas City apartment building was sealed off as a seriously ill person was taken to Research Medical Center for treatment. A source close to the situation said “all or part of the medical facility was then quarantined.”


Later the same day, public health officials in Kansas City issued a statement to combat rumors of an Ebola case in the area:

We have seen online reports that a patient at Research Medical Center is suspected of having Ebola. These reports are inaccurate. Research Medical Center is caring for a patient who presented to our Brookside Campus emergency department, however, the patient does not have the symptom profile of Ebola.


Local health department spokesman Jeff Hershberger commented on the Ebola panic in Kansas City:

There was a social media frenzy about the possibility of Ebola in Kansas City … We’re still exploring how this happened.


Hershberger indicated that the Ebola fears and subsequent social media panic may have originated with calls from worried neighbors to media sources. As health officials indicated, the patient in Kansas City never fit the symptom profile for Ebola infection.

In a completely unrelated incident that occurred more than a week after the rumor discussed above originated, Kansas City hospital officials announced on 13 October 2014 that a local patient was being tested for the possibility of Ebola:

Officials at the University of Kansas Hospital say a man being treated in isolation is considered at low to moderate risk of having contracted the Ebola virus.

Chief medical officer Dr. Lee Norman says the patient came to the hospital with significant weakness and diarrhea. The man also said he had previously had a fever.

But Norman also said it was encouraging that the man did not have a fever nor internal bleeding — two symptoms of Ebola. Norman said the man was being rehydrated and regaining strength.

The man worked recently as a medic on a commercial ship off Africa’s west coast. Norman said he had been exposed to typhoid, but that it’s unknown if he was also exposed to Ebola.

CDC officials confirm “Tests are underway to determine a diagnosis. While the hospital cannot rule out Ebola at this time, Dr. Lee Norman, chief medical officer of The University of Kansas Hospital, says the patient is at low to moderate risk of Ebola. While Dr. Norman also notes there are many other diseases that fit the patient’s symptoms, the hospital nevertheless is following guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).”


Last updated:   13 October 2014


    Blavley, Alan and Tim Engle.   “Despite No Ebola Case in Kansas City, the Rumor Goes Viral.”
    Kansas City Star.   6 October 2014.

    Hanchard, Jenna and Garrett Haake.

  “Kansas City Health Department Monitoring Person with Concerning Symptoms.”

    KSHB.   5 October 2014.

    Heine, Debra.   “Ebola Scare in Kansas City.”

    Breitbart.   5 October 2014.

    Oberholtz, Chris and Laura McCallister.

  “Hospital: Man Not Being Treated for Ebola in Kansas City.”

    KCTV [Kansas City].   5 October 2014.

    Associated Press.   “Ebola Patient ‘Possible’ in Kansas City Metro.”
    KSNW-TV [Wichita, KS].   13 October 2014.