Last Wednesday, September 5th, international Emirates Flight 203 landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, where the ten passengers (seven of which were crew, three being passengers) that were aboard the flight were immediately rushed to a near hospital to be evaluated for potential respiratory illness that health officials believed to most likely be influenza.
Dr. Oxiris Barbot reported that results would probably be available by later that day, but by Thursday Mayoral spokesman Eric Phillips reported that some of the tests had turned out to be inconclusive on other viruses causing them to need to be re-administered, and that all ten patients would be held at the hospital until final results came back as a precaution. However by nine A.M on Wednesday a flight originating in Dubai containing 500 passengers had landed and 106 people quickly reporting symptoms ranging from coughing to fevers and vomiting, causing the plane to be quarantined for evaluation. The plane was taken to a “hard standing area” where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was called in to respond to and screen the passengers, thankfully most were able to be sent away with a clean bill of health. The suspicion of influenza was out of caution for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS, a viral respiratory disease that was first identified in 2012.
Musician Vanilla Ice happened to be aboard the larger flight, he said that the plane had two decks and that the illness had been in just the lower cabin. He tweeted out a video from the window of the plane saying “So I just landed from Dubai and now there is like tons of ambulances and firetrucks and police all over the place.” Other passengers had noticed while still in Dubai that a few passengers were showing obvious signs of illness, so much so that Erin Sykes had asked a flight attendant for a mask before the plane even took flight, however none were available. She reported that the flight was without turbulence so she did not believe all the coughing and fevers that were above 100 degrees were from smooth flying. The flight’s crew didn’t say anything about the issue until there was about half an hour left in the flight, Sykes stated: “They should’ve never been allowed to board.” Sykes continued by adding “The captain did make an announcement and said “We’re not going to be able to deplane right away because there’s been a couple people sick, but that was all we got.” A spokesman for New York Bill de Blasio had stated earlier that a few of the passengers had originally been boarding from the Saudi city of Mecca, which was currently dealing with an outbreak of Influenza, and that many passengers had symptoms that pointed to the flu. Another passenger aboard, Larry Coben, live tweeted about the ambulances, CDC forms, and the health screening, eventually finishing out by tweeting that he had passed through customs and was on his way just after eleven A.M. Srinivasa Rao informed reporters that once they had completed filling out the forms officials would track them to ensure that there was no appearance of sickness within the following weeks. Rao was pleased with the thoroughness of the check ups but still felt more care should have been taken before the flight was even boarded. The Jamaican Hospital Medical Center made a statement saying that passengers faced with illness suffered from coughing, headaches, sore throat and fever, “Passengers who are not ill will be allowed to continue with their travel plans, and if necessary will be followed up with by health officials”