By Gina Cherelus and Rodrigo Campos
NEWYORK (Reuters) – Ten people aboard an Emirates flight from Dubai were taken to New York hospitals with a mystery ailment on Wednesday after scores of passengers and crew complained of feeling sick during the 14-hour overnight flight from the Middle East.
The nature of the illness was not immediately confirmed, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement that symptoms included fever and coughing.
The airliner, with at least 521 passengers, landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport at around 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) and was immediately surrounded by dozens of ambulances and other emergency vehicles as anxious passengers waited to be evaluated by health officials.
Eventually, the airline and the New York mayor’s office said a total of 19 people were confirmed ill. Three passengers and seven crew members went to the hospital, Dubai-based Emirates said.
“Nine passengers underwent additional medical screening at the site near the aircraft and were released afterwards,” said an Emirates spokeswoman. “The rest of the passengers were allowed to leave and clear customs.”
The CDC said in its statement that as many as 100 passengers and crew members reported feeling sick during the flight from Dubai. There was no immediate explanation by the CDC for the discrepancy between the number of people initially reported as feeling sick and the much-smaller number of confirmed cases.
The plane – a double-deck Airbus 380 – was taken to a location away from the terminal so emergency officials could evaluate the situation, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials said in a statement. The A380 is the world’s largest passenger aircraft.
The White House was monitoring the situation, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, and President Donald Trump was being updated as new information became available.
Diala Makki was travelling first-class on Flight 203 en route to New York Fashion Week when she learned from flight crew that a number of people had become sick onboard and passengers were to be detained until officials made checks.
“The Emirates cabin crew were super helpful, they were not in panic mode, which was amazing,” Makki, a 36-year-old television host from Dubai, said outside the airport. “Then we got the American officials check every one of us until we got out. They dealt with it really well.”
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus and Rodrigo Campos; additional reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai and Roberta Rampton in Washington; editing by Frank McGurty, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)