What made so many passengers sick aboard an Emirates flight to New York this morning?
Flight 203 landed from Dubai at 9:10 A.M. ET this morning with 521 passengers onboard. Emergency vehicles met the aircraft on the runway. Rather than pulling up to a jet bridge, the aircraft was parked at a remote stand. The captain had radioed ahead to report many passengers onboard had complained of illness. Symptoms included high temperatures and “nonstop” coughing.
Initially, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 100 passengers onboard had claimed to feel ill.
Approximately 100 passengers, including some crew on the flight, complained of illness including cough and some with fever. CDC public health officers are working with officials to evaluate passengers including taking temperatures and making arrangements for transport to local hospitals those that need care.
Later, Emirates tweeted that only 10 passengers were sick.
Statement: Emirates can confirm that about 10 passengers on #EK203 from Dubai to New York were taken ill. On arrival, as a precaution, they were attended to by local health authorities. All others will disembark shortly. The safety & care of our customers is our first priority.
— Emirates Airline (@emirates) September 5, 2018
But New York City officials later said 19 people were sick, with 10 being taken to a local hospital and nine refusing medical care.
What Caused It?
100. 19. 10. Whatever the number of sick, what caused it?
Tray tables and armrests onboard airplanes are much more likely to contain germs and viruses than lavatories. But the fact that so many passengers got sick so quickly points to food poisoning. It’s always the fish, right?
Original image rendered from Airplane! (Fair Use Exception under US copyright law)
Initially, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office tweeted that the flight stopped in Mecca, which is experiencing a flu outbreak. While one Emirates flight to New York JFK stops in Milan and another flight to Newark stops in Athens, Mecca doesn’t even have a commercial airport (Jeddah is closest) and Emirates flights certainly do not make technical stops in Saudi Arabia. #fakenews
Hopefully all passengers onboard will make a quick recovery. My wager is that food poisoning is responsible for the outbreak of illness onboard. Thankfully, it was not something more serious.