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Patients from quarantined Kennedy jet have flu, health department says

The 10 people from Emirates Flight 203 from Dubai who were hospitalized may be released soon now that final test results showed no other illness, a spokesman said.

Passengers deplane and get their temperature taken at

Passengers deplane and get their temperature taken at Kennedy Airport on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Twitter/@LarryCoben

A total of 10 hospitalized people who fell ill on a commercial airliner that landed at Kennedy Airport on Wednesday morning from the Middle East have tested positive for influenza and common respiratory viruses, officials said.

Additional tests for other viruses on the seven crew members and three passengers came back inconclusive and were readministered Thursday, said Christopher Miller, a spokesman for the city Health Department. Final results Thursday afternoon showed no illness beyond influenza or other common cold viruses.

"We expect all 10 people to be released from the hospital soon,” Miller said in a Thursday afternoon news release.

Hospital officials did not respond to requests seeking updates on the patients' conditions Thursday morning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday afternoon that an 11th person on the plane checked into the hospital about 10 p.m. Wednesday with gastrointestinal issues. A CDC spokesman said the illness might have been unrelated to the illness that afflicted the others. This person did not have respiratory illness and was not admitted to the hospital, the city Health Department said Thursday afternoon.

Preliminary test results "indicate that some patients tested positive for influenza and/or other common respiratory viruses," the CDC said. "Patients are being treated by the hospital, including receiving antivirals."

On Wednesday, nine people who felt sick on the plane declined medical attention while the rest of the passengers and crew on board were cleared at the airport after being checked for symptoms by the CDC. The CDC spokesman Thursday said there were 549 passengers and crew on the plane.

The spokesman recommended those sick with flu "to stay home and avoid travel for at least 24 hours after fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities."

The incident, which briefly sparked fears of a public health crisis, began shortly after 9 a.m. with reports of dozens of ill people aboard Emirates Flight 203 from Dubai. Some on board were coughing and vomiting, while others developed a fever, passengers said. 

The CDC, Port Authority, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, NYPD, FDNY, and state and local health agencies mobilized at the airport and quarantined the plane on the runway. 

CDC medical personnel boarded the double-decker aircraft and began evaluating the people on board and taking their temperature, said agency spokesman Benjamin Haynes.

Some of the ill passengers came from Mecca before getting on in Dubai, Phillips said Wednesday. The flight occurred two weeks after the end of the hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

Messages left with Emirates Airlines on Thursday were not returned. 

With Newsday Staff

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