Ebola scare tied to Suffolk

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Suffolk man reportedly caused an Ebola scare at a Georgia jail Friday after he told intake officers he had recently been to Africa and showed some symptoms of the deadly disease, Georgia media reported.

The Marietta Daily Journal and numerous other media outlets reported the man was Harry Randall Withers, 35. A man by the same name and age was the former manager of the C3Vino wine shop in downtown Suffolk, which closed in August, though it was impossible to immediately confirm the Georgia suspect was the same man.

According to online arrest records, Withers was charged with driving under the influence and failure to maintain a lane of travel.

Email newsletter signup

Nancy Nydam, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Public Health, said the Cobb Health Department was notified about the inmate after he spoke with the intake nurse at the jail and indicated he had recently been in western Africa, where the Ebola virus has killed thousands in the worst outbreak of the virus in history.

Nydam said Withers, whom she did not name in her response to questions about him, was vomiting and had diarrhea.

“An epidemiologist and the emergency preparedness coordinator from Cobb Health Department were called, and they immediately went to the jail,” Nydam said in an email. “The inmate was transferred to Kennestone Hospital, where he underwent tests that would indicate infection.”

About 10 tests in all for things like white blood cell count, malaria and flu came back with normal results, Nydam said. That night, the test on a specimen sent to the Centers for Disease Control for Ebola testing also proved negative.

The Marietta Daily Journal reported that Withers told authorities he had visited Kenya, Nigeria and Liberia on his trip. He told them he had spent about three and a half hours in the Liberia airport and left the airport only for a smoke break.

The newspaper also reported that Withers was isolated until his tests came back negative, as a precaution.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, commended staff at the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service, WellStar Kennestone Hospital and the Cobb/Douglas Public Health District for following the proper protocols.

“From the very beginning, from the very first moment, this case was handled in absolutely perfect manner,” Fitzgerald said. “This patient was isolated at the jail, isolated while he was transported to the hospital, and he was isolated while at the hospital.”

Withers also awaits arraignment in Suffolk on a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from an alleged confrontation in Kelly’s Tavern on June 28. He was released on his own recognizance for that charge.