Flu, common cold confirmed in sick passengers at JFK
New York City’s Department of Health & Mental Hygiene confirmed Thursday that test results from 10 passengers aboard Emirates Flight 203 who reported cough, fever and symptoms of gastrointestinal illness on Wednesday “showed no illness beyond influenza or other common cold viruses.”
Roughly 106 of the more than 500 people on the flight, which originated in Dubai and landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport just after 9 a.m. Wednesday, reported symptoms such as coughing, fever or vomiting.
Upon arrival in New York, the plane was taken to a “hard standing area,” a Port Authority source told CNN. There, paramedics and officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention screened all 549 passengers and crew.
Most people were cleared to continue their travels within hours of landing, but one person who showed symptoms of the flu was immediately admitted to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens on Wednesday.
Ten others were also taken to the hospital, but as of Thursday morning, one had been treated for unrelated symptoms and released.
For the remaining passengers at the hospital, testing for additional viruses Wednesday proved inconclusive, so the agency’s lab had to retest its samples Thursday morning, press secretary Christopher R. Miller said in a statement.
As they waited for Thursday’s test results, all the passengers at the hospital were placed in quarantine, according to Michael Hinck, director of public affairs at the hospital. The CDC added that the patients were also treated for their illness, including with antiviral medications.
Originally, Middle East respiratory syndrome was being considered as a potential cause for illness, along with other respiratory illnesses, a CDC official familiar with the situation told CNN on Wednesday. Known as MERS, it’s a viral respiratory disease first identified in 2012.
Having confirmed no additional viruses present with Thursday’s test results, “we expect all 10 people to be released from the hospital soon,” Miller said.
“CDC requests the cleared passengers to call their health care provider if they develop any symptoms,” the agency said in a statement Thursday. It also recommended that people who are sick with the flu “stay home and avoid travel for at least 24 hours after fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities.”
New York City Acting Commissioner of Health Dr. Oxiris Barbot said there are five or six occurrences of people becoming ill on a flight and then needing to be medically evaluated each year.