Travelers had a scare this morning, as a flight coming into JFK from Dubai was quarantined after around 100 passengers reported becoming ill. Most frequent flyers are used to dealing with the occasional cough or cold on board a plane, of course - and the less lucky among us have had the misfortune to travel near someone who may have a stomach bug or become airsick. Flying while feeling less than great is never fun, for the sick person, or for the people around them, but today’s events on an Emirates flight were definitely more than just the usual on-board upsets.
Instead, the flight was quarantined for several hours upon landing at New York’s JFK airport, and the Center For Disease Control (CDC) was notified. The CDC processed every passenger on the flight, and conflicting reports have come in about exactly how many passengers were taken ill, although it is confirmed that at least some were taken from the plane straight to hospital.
Emirates flight 203 landed this morning shortly after 9am at JFK, where the CDC and the Port Authority Police were waiting. Of the 549 people on board (521 passengers plus crew members), at least ten people were taken to hospital for treatment, while nine others refused treatment. Passengers reported that dozens of people were taken ill on the flight, and the CDC confirmed that around 100 people on board were feeling ill. Sick passengers were suffering from cough, headache and fever, with some reportedly also vomiting.
Photos show several ambulances waiting to take ill passengers to the hospital, and the CDC confirmed that after screening, well passengers were allowed to continue with their travel plans if not ill. Early reports suggested that the outbreak may have originated in Mecca, with the plane stopping there, however, Emirates has confirmed that this was a direct flight. Some passengers had previously been in Mecca, which may account for the confusion.
Although this is out of the ordinary, and some may be worried, Emirates, the CDC and government sources have reassured people that this is not likely to be anything more concerning than a bad case of flu or food poisoning - and is not thought to be a security issue. Some passengers have been quoted as saying that many were ill before getting on the plane at all, which seems to support the idea that this is simply what happens when a large number of people are kept in a small space for several hours with others who are sick.