As Ebola fears have swept the nation, medical personnel are on high alert for anyone with symptoms that sound like the dreaded disease. While there have been only a few cases of Ebola in the U.S., the outbreak is said to be the largest ever recorded. One woman in Ohio may have taken advantage of heightened Ebola fears to get quicker medical assistance, authorities say.
According to WBNS-10TV, a patient was transported to Ohio State Wexner Medical Center with Ebola-like symptoms. Ebola symtpoms, according to the CDC, may be similar to a flu or stomach virus with fever, nausea or stomach pain, muscle soreness or weakness, and diarrhea or vomiting. A hazmat crew showed up at the purported Ebola patient's home and she was treated with all the precautions due an Ebola patient, including placement in an isolation unit.
However, the woman later confessed that the claim was a hoax. The case has been turned over to police for investigation. Officials speculate that the patient may have claimed she had Ebola in order to receive faster or better care for her symptoms.
It's not the first Ebola hoax, either. On Wednesday, a bus passenger in Los Angeles shouted "I have Ebola!" According to the Los Angeles Times, the unidentified man evaded authorities afterward. While the event is thought to have most likely been a hoax, the FBI will pursue it as a terroristic threat because of the panic caused (and presumably intended). Not only did the Ebola threat cause widespread fear and panic, but it resulted in the brief quarantine of the driver and continued monitoring of his health. It also created the necessity for the bus to be taken out of service for a time to be thoroughly cleaned, just in case. Overall, the Ebola prank may cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Add this to the fear generated by an Ebola story on a satirical news site, the National Report. According to Snopes, that story, claiming that a teen in Texas was under quarantine after a family of five tested positive for Ebola was shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook, amping up further Ebola terror. Though this was satire, not truly a hoax, and perhaps not intended to spread misinformation and fear, it nonetheless had that effect.
However, with the FBI involved in the Ebola bus hoax case and police involved in the case of the sick woman in Ohio, one thing is clear. Authorities are taking Ebola hoaxes seriously.
[Photo credit: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection]