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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Emirates Dubai to New York flight: Passengers confirmed as suffering from influenza

Flight EK203 quarantined at JFK airport in New York on Wednesday morning amid reports dozens of people were ill

A passenger from Emirates flight EK203 to New York is taken by stretcher to an ambulance at JFK International Airport. EPA    
A passenger from Emirates flight EK203 to New York is taken by stretcher to an ambulance at JFK International Airport. EPA    

Passengers and crew who fell ill during an Emirates flight from Dubai have been found to be suffering from influenza, health officials in New York have confirmed.

Flight EK203 was quarantined at John F Kennedy Airport in New York on Wednesday morning amid reports dozens onboard were sick.

Dr Oxiris Barbot, acting commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), told reporters respiratory samples were taken from 10 patients.

Results from the city's public health laboratory later found passengers had tested positive for flu and other common viruses.

"A majority of the tests showed common viruses such as influenza and the common cold,'' DOHMH said in a statement. "Unfortunately, tests for other viruses were inconclusive. This is not unusual when testing, but it means we have to re-test some samples today and expect to have full results in the afternoon.''

Passengers are assisted by air cabin crew and the emergency services after a flight from Dubai to New York was quarantined. Courtesy Erin Sykes.  
Passengers are assisted by air cabin crew and the emergency services after a flight from Dubai to New York was quarantined. Courtesy Erin Sykes.  

According to the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC), the typical incubation period for influenza is between one and four days, with the average being two days. Otherwise-healthy adults can infect others before they develop symptoms.

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The CDC first said as many as 100 people complained of symptoms but it has since emerged that many were members of the ‘worried well’ - people who do not need treatment but who visit doctors for reassurance.

In an updated statement the CDC confirmed 11 individuals were taken to hospital. The remaining passengers were discharged.

“We are requesting the passengers who have been evaluated and released to call their provider and health department if they develop any symptoms, and to give their travel history and report of incident,” said the CDC.

“They may receive a follow-up call from their health department just as a check-in."

A statement released by Emirates confirmed three passengers and seven crew members were initially transferred to hospital for evaluation.

All of the passengers were screened by the local health authorities before leaving the plane, with nine requiring additional medical screening. These passengers were later discharged.

"Our crew and on-ground staff extended our full co-operation with the authorities during the onboard screenings and the aircraft has now been handed back to Emirates," the statement read.

"We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused. The safety and well-being of our customers and crew is always our top priority,” it added.

Erin Sykes, a New Yorker traveling on the flight, told The National passengers were coughing and “sick to their stomachs”.

Eleven passengers and crew were treated for flu after landing at New York's JFK airport.
Eleven passengers and crew were treated for flu after landing at New York's JFK airport.

"Most were sick well before the flight took off,” she said.

“It was obvious some people should never have been allowed to board. They were coughing and not covering their mouths, and the hygiene was really bad. Then other passengers started to get sick."

She was one of several passengers – including the American rapper Vanilla Ice – who tweeted videos and pictures of the fleet of ambulances and police cars that surrounded the plane.

“This is crazy. Apparently there is over 100 people sick on the bottom floor, so happy I’m up top, it’s a double-decker plane 380,” tweeted the rapper.