Sick Passenger Causes Ebola Scare at LAX

An ill passenger sparked fears of Ebola exposure at Los Angeles International Airport Sunday until it was determined she did not have the deadly virus.

The woman, who arrived about 1:30 p.m. on a United Airlines flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, had flu-like symptoms with vomiting, Los Angeles County health officials said.

A hazardous materials crew responded to Flight 703, which had been diverted to a remote gate on the airport’s west end.

After questioning the passenger about her travel history and checking her symptoms, health officials determined that the passenger did not have Ebola. She was checked out at the airport, but refused medical treatment and was not taken to the hospital, LAX police said.

"There is no risk of Ebola infection to any of the passengers or crew on the flight," the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement.

The passenger, described as a woman in her 20s, had been to South Africa, not the area of western Africa where the Ebola virus has been rampant, Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Jaime Moore said.

The woman appeared to be air sick.

"It has turned out that there was some miscommunication - that this patient had been to the continent of Africa, but not near West Africa," Moore said. "As a matter of fact, it was South Africa. The patient has been ill on flights before and got ill on this flight. There is no reason to believe this person has been exposted to an Ebola virus."

Forty LAFD firefighters and paramedics, along with airport police, LA County health officials and FBI agents, responded to the incident.

"They put her in the back in the galley area and kept all other passengers away from her when they realized she was sick," said another passenger. "The pilot came on and said that two agencies were fighting over how it was going to be dealt with, which is why we were sitting there for so long."

After more than two hours on the tarmac, passengers were escorted off the plane when officials learned it was a false alarm.

"The flight attendant would turn up with a mask over her face and walk down the aisle rapidly, and everybody would look panicked, and then she would come back without it. So there seemed to be a lot of confusion," another passenger said.

The scare comes less than a week after another passenger at LAX was rushed to the hospital in an Ebola scare. The passenger, who had traveled from Liberia, was checked out at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood on Wednesday and was released Friday.

Despite some criticism by frustrated passengers on the plane, Moore said the response to Sunday's Ebola scare was a well-rehearsed procedure put in place after flaws were revealed in the emergency response to last year's LAX shooting that left one TSA officer dead.

"Since last November's shooting, the Los Angeles Fire Department and LAWA (Los Angeles World Airports) has worked very, very closely in establishing procedures as to how we're going to handle incidents at the airport," he said.

Gadi Schwartz contributed to this report.

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