Police arrested a 39-year-old man Wednesday after they say he called 911 and falsely claimed that he had contracted Ebola.
Paul Avens of 524 New Bern Ave. is charged with one misdemeanor count of misuse of the 911 system, according to an arrest warrant filed at the Wake County Magistrate’s Office.
Investigators accused Avens of calling a 911 dispatcher on Oct. 17 to report that he had the deadly virus, prompting emergency medical workers to stage “an unnecessary Ebola protocol response” that begins with getting answers to key questions.
Wake County EMS spokesman Jeff Hammerstein said an EMS district chief followed protocols established this month by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and contacted Avens to ask two questions: Had he traveled to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone over the past 21 days? And was he feeling feverish?
If Avens had answered yes to both questions, the district chief would have asked him more specific questions, including whether he had direct contact with someone who has Ebola, Hammerstein said.
Avens’ answers to those questions stopped EMS workers from showing up in the 500 block of New Bern Avenue in protective suits.
Hammerstein would not comment specifically about the incident that led to Avens’ arrest. But he said that Wake County Emergency Services has fielded six reports of Ebola since the death of Thomas Eric Duncan on Oct. 8 in Dallas, Texas, after arriving from Liberia.
“We haven’t gotten to the point where we are suited up,” Hammerstein said. “But we can get down to the real nitty-gritty and determine if we need that response or not.”
Looking for faster response
None of the Wake County residents who called 911 to report that they had contracted Ebola actually had the virus, Hammerstein said. But only Avens has been charged with intentionally lying about it.
Police think Avens told the dispatcher he had Ebola to “expedite emergency medical services transport” to the Wakebrook Recovery Center, a substance abuse treatment facility on Sunnybrook Road.
Avens remained in custody at the Wake County jail Wednesday night in lieu of $2,000 bail, court records show.
There have been 13,700 reported cases of the Ebola virus in West Africa and at least 5,000 deaths, the World Health Organization reported this week.
Duncan is the only Ebola fatality in the United States. The two nurses who treated him in Dallas contracted the virus but have recovered.