U.S. health authorities are investigating an outbreak of illness aboard an Emirates flight that sickened some 100 passengers, forcing the plane and its passengers to be put under quarantine for several hours at JFK Airport.
According to NBC New York, 106 of the 521 people aboard Emirates Flight 203 from Dubai to New York City reported feeling sick. Symptoms reported by passengers and crew members included headache, fever, sore throat, coughing and vomiting.
CBS New York reported Wednesday that government officials believed the illnesses were connected to in-flight meals served on the Emirates flight. Later reports, however, indicate that the passengers may have been sickened by the flu virus. The cause of the outbreak was still undetermined on Thursday.
The Emirate airplane was met on the runway by a caravan of emergency response units from the Port Authority Police and the CDC.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that 11 of the people sickened, including seven crew members, had been taken to New York City hospitals for treatment. Some of the symptomatic passengers declined medical treatment. Several others were cleared to leave the airport or continue on connecting flights.
Rapper Vanilla Ice, whose real name is Robert Matthew Van Winkle, was one of the passengers aboard the Emirates flight. He said he was on the top of the double-decker airplane and indicated that the sick passengers were on the lower level.
“Well, today was exciting,” he told West Palm Beach’s WPBF. “I flew 14 hours into New York from Dubai, and basically it was chaos right when we landed. The pilot comes on, he says, ‘Well, we got a little health issue. People are sick.’”
One passenger told NBC News New York that she noticed some people were visibly sick while waiting to board the Emirates flight in Dubai.
“My first question is, if it is a virus, why did they let them on the plane?” said passenger Srinivasa Rao, according to NBC News New York. “I sat with them for 13 hours. If it is a virus, we are all breathing the same [air].”
A CDC spokesperson said that although the Emirates flight flew directly from Dubai to JFK, some of the passengers aboard the plane originated in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where there is an influenza outbreak.