Police briefly quarantined a house in South Philadelphia on Thursday morning after a woman who had recently returned from central Africa was suffering abdominal pain, high fever, and aching joints, law enforcement sources said.
Despite initial concerns that the woman could be suffering from Ebola, doctors and the city Department of Public Health quickly determined she was not infected with the virus, which has claimed thousands of lives in West Africa.
Health Department spokesman Jeff Moran said "rumors of a suspected Ebola case in South Philadelphia" were reviewed by the department's Division of Disease Control - and emergency services physicians.
"It is not Ebola," he said. "All health and safety protocols were followed despite this false alarm."
According to a law enforcement source, doctors believe the woman may have contracted malaria during her trip to the area, about 2,000 miles from the West African countries where Ebola has hit hardest. Malaria is not spread person to person, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The scare began around 11 a.m., police said, when the woman's husband flagged down a patrol officer near their home on Point Breeze Avenue.
The man told police that his wife was ill and having trouble getting out of bed, the law enforcement sources said. After calling for an ambulance, police contacted the health department, the sources said.
Paramedics, wearing protective clothing, took the woman to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Police and health officials briefly barred entry or exit from the house until doctors examined the woman.
Several neighbors said they were alarmed by the large number of police cars - plus two ambulances - that converged on the house Thursday afternoon.