Ebola ruled out in two suspected cases in Washington region

Officials at Washington, D.C. area hospitals ruled out Ebola in two patients who were suspected of having the deadly virus as national and local health authorities sought to reassure the public Saturday that they were prepared for an outbreak.

Howard University Hospital in Washington quarantined a patient Friday who had recently traveled to Nigeria out of "an abundance of caution," officials said. On Saturday, officials said the hospital, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had determined the patient did not have Ebola. Howard University spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton declined to provide an update on the patient's condition on Saturday, and health officials did not elaborate on whether a blood test was performed to rule out Ebola. Hamilton would not say what illness the patient was believed to have been suffering from.


"Our observations and public health tracking practices have allowed us to rule out Ebola for the patient at Howard University. However, out of an abundance of caution we will continue to work with the Howard University Medical team to monitor the patient's progress," Dr. John Davies-Cole, a D.C. health official, said in a statement.

Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville also determined late Friday that its patient had malaria, not Ebola. The unidentified patient was isolated after arriving with suspicious symptoms and travel history. Ebola, malaria and cholera have similar symptoms early on, including fever and vomiting.


Health providers are on heightened alert for warning signs of the hemorrhagic fever Ebola causes — symptoms including fever, vomiting and diarrhea, and recent travel to West Africa — after a Liberian man was turned away on his first visit to a Dallas hospital. He potentially exposed as many as 100 people to the virus over the next few days before being admitted and confirmed as the first Ebola case diagnosed in the United States.

On Saturday, the man's condition worsened from serious to critical condition.

CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a media briefing that so far, only the Dallas patient has tested positive for the virus. None of the people believed to have been exposed to the Dallas Ebola patient have a fever or any symptoms.

"The first case of Ebola is obviously both scary and unprecedented," Frieden said.

Also Saturday, CDC officials in biohazard suits escorted two passengers off a United Airlines jet that landed at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey because they were believed to be from Liberia and exhibiting signs of illness during the flight, according to WABC-TV and the Record newspaper. An airport official was quoted by the newspaper as saying CDC officials did not believe the man and his daughter were sick with Ebola.

Frieden said that officials "expect we will see more rumors" of Ebola patients and that more cases were possible in the U.S. He said restricting travel from West Africa would be counterproductive and that the best solution was to focus on containing the outbreak on that continent.

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In Maryland, health officials said Thursday they are monitoring for Ebola and ensuring doctors and nurses in all types of health care settings are aware of what to look for and what to do if they suspect a patient might have Ebola.

Since an outbreak of Ebola began in West Africa last December, there have been as many as 100 scares in the U.S. in which health officials have consulted with the CDC over possible Ebola cases, Frieden said Thursday. But only 15 of those instances raised alarm to the level that blood tests for the virus were performed, he said.


There have been at least two cases of patients being isolated at Baltimore-area hospitals because of Ebola concerns, but in both instances the virus was quickly ruled out. Maryland is one of 13 states capable of testing for Ebola, in tandem with the CDC and with its authorization.

In Nigeria, there have been 20 cases of Ebola, eight of them fatal. There have been more than 3,300 deaths and 7,000 cases of Ebola in all of West Africa.

Reuters contributed to this article.