“Mission Control, we need assistance.” A large jet from Dubai caused a scare on Wednesday. A pilot radioed that the plane would be landing at New York’s Kennedy Airport—with several passengers and crew members showing strange symptoms aboard. Yesterday, CDC officials confirmed the mystery illness was influenza.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quarantined the double-decker Emirates aircraft holding 549 passengers. Medics evaluated about 100 of them. Some complained about coughs, vomiting, headaches, sore throats, and fevers.
Officials say 10 people—three passengers and seven crew members—ended up hospitalized. The rest were cleared to continue their travels while the CDC sought to determine what caused the sickness.
On social media, passengers posted photos and videos of a large-scale emergency response when the aircraft touched down at JFK.
Traveler Raghida Dergham said “Nobody was alarmed. . . . It was handled very well.”
But other passengers say they suspect some people were sick before they got on the plane. They blamed the airline for not doing more to protect the health of others.
“Why did they allow them on the flight?” says Srinivasa Rao. “I sat with them for 13 hours. If it’s a virus, we’re all getting sick.”
Passenger Erin Sykes posted a video of officers in masks and gloves taking the temperature of passengers on the tarmac. Sykes saw a few passengers being taken off the plane first for medical attention but that “many, many” others were showing signs of illness.
“Very intense coughing. Violently sick. Going into the bathroom a lot,” she says, adding, “People should know not to travel in a confined space with other healthy people.”
(AP Photo: Emergency response crews gather outside the plane at New York’s Kennedy Airport.)