LEAGUE CITY — An “abundance of caution” about Ebola sent a man to the University of Texas Medical Branch and closed a League City clinic for about three hours Friday, officials said.
While the man, who had recently traveled in Africa, was free of the deadly virus, the scare allowed county health officials to test their response procedures, officials said.
The event began when the League City Police Department issued a news release and alerted residents via social media about a man at Immediate Medical Care, 2640 E. League City Parkway, who was described as “exhibiting symptoms consistent with Ebola.”
The man was taken to the medical branch where by Friday afternoon he had been pronounced Ebola free.
The man did not have a fever or any of the symptoms that are particularly indicative of Ebola, said Dr. David Callender, medical branch president, during a news conference Friday afternoon. The man was being treated for sinusitis and was released Friday evening.
There may have been some confusion during early screening procedures because two West African countries have similar names, Callender said.
The West African nation of Guinea is among the hardest hit by the most recent Ebola outbreak. The man had traveled in Equatorial Guinea, also a West African nation, but one that has not had any diagnosed cases of Ebola, Callender said.
“It is completely separate from the afflicted region,” Callender said.
Callender said the incident was a good drill for medical branch staff.
When he arrived, the man was taken to an isolation unit and subjected to a screening process by health workers in protective suits. One of the first steps of that process was to collect a detailed travel history.
The man’s blood was never tested because his travel history indicated he was not at risk for carrying the virus, Callender said.
“This patient has not been exposed to the virus,” Callender said.
Response to the incident went mostly as envisioned Tuesday when the medical branch was named one of the state’s two Ebola treatment centers, Callender said.
Communication of the incident did cause some confusion, because the League City Police Department issued a public alert about the situation before hospital and county health officials had prepared one. Callender said he didn’t fault the department for doing so because the information it released was accurate and the work of notifying state and county authorities was not interrupted by the announcement.
“The ultimate activation that needed to occur occurred,” he said. “Nobody was put at risk; but I think there needs to be more education about how that communication tree works, and that’s going to happen.”
Officer Reagan Pena, spokeswoman for the police department, said on the city’s Facebook page the city had been trying to handle a “delicate balance between sharing potentially important information and causing panic” when it began posting information about the incident.
When medical personnel began showing in protective gear up at the clinic, which is in a strip mall, the situation was “not going to be a secret,” Pena wrote.
“We wanted our community to all have the same information, and we will always strive for an environment of trust,” she wrote.
The city had erroneously said medical personnel and patients at the clinic had been quarantined. City and health district officials later said no one was quarantined, but had been asked to wait there until officials could gather their contact information.
The clinic was closed for about three hours, but by about 3 p.m., the clinic’s owner, Dr. Moshe Allon, said it had reopened.
Reporters Shannon Daughtry, John Wayne Ferguson and Christopher Smith Gonzalez and contributed to this article.