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Hazmat responds to Ebola scare at south Forsyth motel
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Forsyth County News

SOUTH FORSYTH — A woman who had recently traveled out of the country was taken to Northside Hospital-Forsyth on Monday afternoon after the county’s hazardous materials and decontaminations units responded to unconfirmed reports that she exhibited symptoms of the Ebola virus.

No information has been released on the woman’s identity or whether she is a Forsyth County resident. Her condition as of Tuesday afternoon could not be determined.

In a statement, officials with Northside could confirm only that “a patient was administered an Ebola screening, and the results were negative for the disease.”

“It was a false alarm for Northside Hospital-Forsyth, which coordinated closely with EMS personnel and followed strict protocols so that necessary infectious control precautions were prepared prior to arrival,” said Lee Echols, vice president of marketing and communications with the hospital system.

About 2 p.m. Monday, housekeeping staff found the woman unconscious and “visibly ill” on the floor of her McFarland Parkway motel room, according to Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers.

The woman was apparently only able to provide information once at the hospital.

“We are confident she had not been to West Africa,” Shivers said. “She had recently traveled back into the United States from the east African or Asian part of the world.”

Though the initial report that the woman might have been suffering from the virus — a deadly and contagious disease that spread rapidly last year in certain west African countries — was largely a precaution, Shivers said it was “not that far removed from other hazardous material” situations.

Units trained for “some protocols locally when Ebola was in the forefront of the national spotlight.”

“We know Ebola is not an airborne sickness, but it is transferred through bodily fluids, including potentially microscopic particles that can be coughed,” he said.

“So it was critically important that we properly decontaminated our personnel and the equipment they were wearing. And that is exactly what we did.”

Four people went through the decontamination process, he said.

According to Shivers, hospital staff had advised at the time they would take every precaution necessary to respond to a perceived or real threat of Ebola, including testing the woman for the virus.