Fears of a national Ebola epidemic hit close to home in Baton Rouge on Friday night, when a Police Department precinct on Highland Road evacuated about 30 officers after a man suffering from dementia walked in saying he needed medical attention.
Although there was no evidence that the man suffered from Ebola-like symptoms, miscommunication over his origins led to concerns that he could have contracted the disease in Africa, said Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge Police spokesman.
The man and a concerned person who brought him to the station for help were taken to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center for evaluation, where police soon learned their fears of Ebola were unfounded.
Kelly Zimmerman, a spokesman for Our Lady of the Lake, said a doctor there found the man had no outward symptoms of suffering from an infectious disease. Zimmerman said the family of the man, who suffers from dementia, showed up at the hospital and confirmed he has not traveled.
Zimmerman said precautions were taken because the man had told police he felt ill, although the physician found no fever or other signs of illness when the man was examined.
The scare, though, led to the precinct being evacuated for a time and to the building being sanitized on Friday night as a precaution, McKneely said.
He said it wasn’t until later that police learned the man had a history of being treated at local hospitals, which cast doubt on the information he initially gave police.
Concern did not stop other departments from reacting on Friday night.
About seven firefighters at Baton Rouge Fire Department Station 11 on Highland Road were briefly restricted from leaving the building while the Fire Department learned more about the situation, though the man had never set foot on the building’s grounds, said Curt Monte, a Fire Department spokesman.
Within a few hours, those restrictions were lifted.
Monte emphasized the move was not a quarantine because there were never plans to sanitize the building.