DUBAI/NEW YORK: Eleven people on an Emirates airline flight were taken to a New York City hospital suffering flu-like symptoms on Wednesday after as many as 100 passengers and crew reported feeling ill during an Emirates flight from Dubai to New York.
Laboratory tests on respiratory samples from the patients have yet to confirm the illness, but their histories and symptoms – fever, cough and vomiting – indicate influenza, said Dr Oxiris Barbot, New York City’s acting health commissioner.
Some passengers in recent days had attended the Hajj pilgrimage where the flu virus was circulating, and could have contracted the illness there, Barbot said. It was also possible the virus was transmitted between passengers during the lengthy flight, she said.
All who were hospitalised were in stable condition and none was in need of “extreme” medical attention, Barbot said.
About 100 people complained of feeling sick on Emirates Flight 203, which landed with at least 521 passengers shortly after 9 am at John F Kennedy International Airport, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement.
The airline and the mayor’s office said 19 people were confirmed ill. Three passengers and seven crew members went to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens, and nine other passengers medically evaluated at the scene were released afterward, Dubai-based Emirates said.
CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes later said 11 people were taken to the hospital, and that the nine others confirmed as sick declined further medical care.
The remainder of the passengers were allowed to leave and clear customs, the airline said. All were advised to call a doctor if they developed symptoms later.
Barbot said 106 people initially reported feeling sick during the flight but the “vast majority” were found to be free of any illness when screened. She said some probably fell into the category of “what we call the worried well.”
Haynes said it was also possible the tally of confirmed cases was limited to those whose symptoms were most obvious.
Still, Dr Demetre Daskalakis, New York’s deputy commissioner for disease control, said it was rare for so many people aboard a single commercial flight to fall ill at once.
The plane, a double-deck Airbus 380 that ranks as the world’s largest passenger aircraft, was taken to a location away from the terminal so emergency officials could evaluate the situation, authorities said.
Rap performer Vanilla Ice, who was a passenger on the jet, tweeted, “This is crazy. Apparently there is over 100 people sick on the bottom floor, so happy I’m up top.”
So I just landed from Dubai and now there is like tons of ambulances and fire trucks and police all over the place pic.twitter.com/i9QLh6WyJW
— Vanilla Ice (@vanillaice) September 5, 2018