Ohio Ebola Hoax Vexes First Responders

A Columbus woman allegedly used Ebola fears to receive faster 911 response.

On 16 October 2014, 911 operators in Columbus, Ohio, received a call from a woman who reported her sister exhibited symptoms of Ebola. Emergency dispatchers asked whether the symptomatic subject of the call had recently traveled to Ebola-afflicted regions, and the caller answered in the affirmative.

Local news sources published a brief excerpt from the 911 call in which the woman allegedly described her sister’s alarmingly high fever and relevant recent travel history:

“I’m scared. I think my sister has Ebola. Her fever is 107, and she’s really, really hot.”

“Was the person over in Africa recently in the last 21 days?”

“Yes, she was.”

Paramedics enacted full containment protocols including hazmat suits and crime scene tape to respond to the woman’s Ebola claim. But police later said the report was possibly a ruse to bypass emergency room wait times.

Columbus Public Health’s Jose Rodriguez stated the woman’s symptoms were not consistent with Ebola and the female patient had not visited Africa. During the call, her sister allegedly claimed repeatedly the patient had recently returned from that continent.

According to Rodriguez, the Ebola claim fell apart after the woman was admitted to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and placed in isolation. Authorities surmised the woman simply wanted to be seen quickly for a different complaint.

Rodriguez said false reports of Ebola are a drain on first responders:

We are trying to protect the community, and a hoax really wasted our resources.

Authorities in Columbus plan to investigate whether the claim warrants criminal charges.

Last updated:   17 October 2014