Officials say a bus passenger who fell ill at the south parking lot of the Pentagon does not have Ebola and the brief quarantine of the lot and other passengers has been lifted.
According to the woman's employer, she had not been to Africa, as she said. However, the increased political and media attention over recent cases of Ebola in the U.S. prompted the Pentagon to cordon off a large area of the lot and close off a nearby building entrance.
The woman has not been identified but The Washington Post reported late Friday she works for a public relations company called Total Spectrum.
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Coll. Tom Crosson said Friday afternoon that the woman was only briefly on board the bus, which was taking Marines, civilian employees and family members to the Marine Barracks at 8th and I Streets in Washington.
The woman was not on the bus when it left the Pentagon, he said, and it was stopped before reaching the barracks.
"Representatives from the District of Columbia Department of Health responded to the bus and conducted screening protocols with the passengers. The bus and its passengers were cleared by the District of Columbia Department of Health," Crosson said.
Additionally, some 17 police and first responders with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency and Arlington County Fire and Emergency Services who had responded to the call were all checked out by the county's public health division before being cleared and released from the scene, Crosson said.
Lt. Col. Eric Dent, a public affairs officer who was on the bus, said the woman boarded the bus, went to the back to use the bathroom, and then got off. She collapsed outside, and the driver afterwards found she had vomited in the bathroom, Dent told the Post.
After saying she had been to Africa, the woman was quickly taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia, to be checked out, the Pentagon said.
Late Friday, Arlington County officials told the Post that the woman proved negative for Ebola infection and the Pentagon lifted its quarantine on the lot and passengers.
Steve Gordon, managing director for Total Spectrum, told the Post her claim of having been to Africa was false. He said he believes the woman was ill, became disoriented, and accidentally boarded the Pentagon shuttle instead of the regular bus she usually boards for her morning commute.
The Pentagon was not evacuated nor were service members or civilians quarantined inside during the episode. The Pentagon's immediate closure of the south lot and its Corridor 2 building entrance highlighted the fear of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa further spreading in the United States.
Officials across the U.S. have taken precautions when potential Ebola symptoms have been identified and patients have made a recent visit to Africa. The virus has spread across West Africa where it has killed more than 4,000 people.
One man already has died from the illness in Texas and two healthcare workers who had contact with the man are now being treated for the virus. A Marine has also voluntarily quarantined himself after he found out he was onboard the same flight as one of the nurses.
The U.S. is deploying troops to Liberia and other West African countries to support civilian-led operations to halt the spread of the virus.
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org