National Security

Ebola scare limits access to Pentagon

The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.
The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. MCT

Military officials restricted access to the Pentagon on Friday after a woman who said she’d recently been in Africa started vomiting in one of vast complex’s main parking lots.

An Arlington County, Va., hazmat team sped to the Defense Department headquarters in response to the woman becoming ill on a Pentagon contractor bus shuttling employees to the Marine Barracks across the Potomac in the Southeast sector of Washington.

After the woman got off the bus in the Pentagon South Parking Lot and began vomiting, she was rushed to Inova Fairfax Hospital, a large regional medical center in neighboring Fairfax County. Her condition or diagnosis were not known as of Friday evening.

The shuttle bus was stopped after crossing the Potomac, and personnel from the Washington’s city Health Department screened its passengers.

“The bus was stopped before reaching the Marine Barracks,” Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Crosson said in a statement. “Representatives from the District of Columbia Department of Health responded to the bus and conducted screening protocols with the passengers. The bus and the passengers were cleared by the District of Columbia Department of Health.”

Medics with the Arlington County Public Health Division also assessed and released from the scene 17 police and first responders who’d come to the woman’s aid from the Pentagon Force Protection Agency and from Arlington’s Fire and Emergency Services, Crosson said.

Crosson said the police and other emergency personnel had first responded to the woman at 9:10 a.m. in the Pentagon South Parking Lot, the largest of several areas for cars surrounding the giant building.

“Arlington County Fire Department was notified to respond immediately,” Crosson said in a statement. “During the response, the individual indicated that she had recently visited Africa. Out of an abundance of caution, all pedestrian and vehicular traffic was suspended while Arlington County responded to the scene.”

Seventeen lanes in the parking lot were closed for about six hours, along with the Corridor 2 entrance to the Pentagon, before being reopened in the afternoon.

That entrance is where many of the Pentagon’s 26,000 military and civilian employees arrive for work each day.

It was the first known instance of an Ebola scare at a major federal government facility. The Defense Department is the largest federal agency, with more than 600,000 service members and other employees worldwide.

Five hours after the woman became ill, the Pentagon notified reporters that it had canceled an honor cordon welcoming Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes for his meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

A Defense official told McClatchy that the ceremony’s cancellation was unrelated to the Ebola scare and was due to a “scheduling conflict.”

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