CDC meets plane at JFK after passengers report feeling ill

Photo courtesy Larry Coben/CNN

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN

(CNN) -- Federal health officials met a plane landing Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after passengers reported feeling ill, according to sources.

Emirates Flight 203, which originated in Dubai, was carrying more than 500 passengers and landed around 9:06 a.m. ET, a source said.

"I asked the (flight attendant) for a mask before we even took off, but there was none available," passenger Erin Sykes told CNN from the plane. "It was so obvious that a large number of people were ill well before takeoff."

The nonstop flight was a smooth one, Sykes said, so she didn't believe the ailments were related to turbulence or air sickness.

"People were coughing the whole time. Now some people have fevers over 100," she said. "They should never had been allowed to board."

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a source with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said as many as 100 passengers reported feeling sick, the airline said only about 10 passengers had "taken ill."

"As a precaution, they were immediately checked by local health authorities and those needing medical attention will be attended to," Emirates said in a statement. "All other passengers will be disembarking shortly."

Seven crew members and five passengers were taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, a Port Authority source said. Other passengers are still being evaluated, the source said.

Passenger Larry Coben declined to speak to the media, but his tweets documented ambulances converging on the tarmac after the plane landed, CDC forms that passengers were asked to complete, passengers disembarking and having their temperatures taken, and passengers then taking a bus to the terminal.

"Happy to report that I am through customs and on my way home," he tweeted just after 11 a.m. ET.

Port Authority spokesman Scott Ladd referred questions to the New York State Department of Health, but he did confirm health officials were on the scene. Health department officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The plane was taken to a "hard standing area," where paramedics and officials from the CDC were responding to the scene, the source said.

The CDC said passengers "complained of illness including cough and some with fever," and health officials are working with local authorities to take their temperatures and transport those who are sick to a hospital.

"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," the agency said.

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