NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A plane from Dubai landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport and was held away from the terminal after several passengers on board reported feeling sick.

The Emirates Airbus A380 arrived at Terminal 4 after 13 hours in the air and was met by the Centers for Disease Control and Port Authority police.

After interviews and inspections, 10 crew members and passengers were transported to a Jamaica Hospital in Queens. Nine others showed symptoms but refused medical treatment. 

Emirates Flight 203 landed in New York Wednesday shortly after 9 a.m. with about 520 people on board, including rapper Vanilla Ice, who took to Twitter to document the ordeal.

The flight was direct from Dubai and did not make a stop in Mecca as the New York mayor’s office erroneously reported earlier.

Shortly before 10:30 a.m., Emirates Airlines said only about 10 passengers from Dubai had taken ill. Passengers said the number was in dozens, and the CDC issued a statement that 100 people were sick.

A government source briefed on situation said there was no evidence of a security or terror issue. Emirates‘ home office told U.S. officials it believes this incident was caused by food poisoning, but passengers also suggested a nasty flu virus could also be to blame.

“Even well before the flight when we were on line getting on board (in Dubai), there were people that were obviously very sick that should not have been allowed to get on board in the first place,” said passenger Erin Sykes.

Some point to a particularly aggressive strain of the virus ravaging Mecca, where some of the passengers had recently spent time. The flight did not go to a terminal but was directed to a hardstand area as emergency medical response teams investigated the cause of the illness, a standard procedure practiced by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for such emergencies.

“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,” said the CDC in a statement.

Mahesh Varavooru says his wife was not one of numerous passengers who fell ill, but she did see several people vomiting during the flight.

“She was scared, obviously, because it didn’t taxi yet and she was hoping the fight was going taxi and she couldn’t get out and was the middle of runway and cops all around,” Varavooru said about his wife’s experience on the plane.

All ten patients taken to the hospital were tested for the flu. The results of that test are expected sometime Thursday. As for the rest of the people on board who may have been exposed to the mystery illness, they’ve been told to follow up with their doctor if they feel sick at all in the coming week.

Social Media From The Plane

Passenger Larry Coben chronicled his experiences with the flight emergency on Twitter:

Photos and video from Chopper 2 showed the flight crew on the ground meeting with officals.

View From Chopper 2

Aerial Coverage Above John F. Kennedy Airport


Photos From The Scene

Emergency vehicles surround Emirates Flight 203 in a holding area at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Sept. 5, 2018. (credit: CBS2)

Emergency vehicles surround Emirates Flight 203 in a holding area at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Sept. 5, 2018. (credit: CBS2)

Emergency vehicles surround Emirates Flight 203 in a holding area at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Sept. 5, 2018. (credit: CBS2)

Emergency vehicles surround Emirates Flight 203 in a holding area at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Sept. 5, 2018. (credit: CBS2)

Follow CBS New York on this developing story.

Comments (23)
  1. Debra JM Smith says:

    So it stands to reason that anyone coming back from Mecca, on other flights and on other days, could be bringing this flu to the U.S.

  2. Sandy Johnson says:

    Probably a batch of bad falafels for the Eid returnees.

  3. Rod Mackey says:

    diversity delivering diseases to the civilized world

  4. Ben Haley says:

    If only the CDC had checked their own website before releasing the 400+ other passengers on the flight who “weren’t sick”

    “Symptoms can begin about 2 days (but can range from 1 to 4 days) after the virus enters the body.

    That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

    Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.”

  5. Dan Brower says:

    Keep all planes from Islamic countries out of the US. US citizens come first over here.

    1. International travel has brought so many problems into this country it is pitiful..When I first began flying these kinds of things along with terrorism, etc etc,,,were unheard of. Now it would not only be sensible and wise not to travel via plane and stop all International travel for a season and allow the dust to settle and get a clear picture of what is really going on before its too late…No one seems to have a handle on this as hard as they try. “If people are constantly falling off a cliff, you could place ambulances under the cliff or build a fence on the top of the cliff. We are placing all too many ambulances under the cliff.”
      ― Denis Parsons Burkitt

  6. Jay Barbieri says:

    And they were allowed to land.
    We are deliberately being taken down by our own government. They want us dead.

  7. Samuel Green says:

    I never step foot on an aircraft without having a surgical mask in my carry on for just this type of scenario.

    Been seated to a sick person too many times to count. It’s ridiculous that many airliners allow very obvious passengers that have a severe flu aboard cramped aircraft . Filling seats is more important than keeping passengers safe. As a retired aviation engineer, I wont fly if I don’t have a surgical mask to don at the first sign of a serious ill traveller in close proximity. -period.

    On a side-note, I wouldn’t mind seeing temperature sensors at airport security baggage check areas. It’s not difficult to remotely measure a person’s body temperature. Failure to do so will be how Ebola or a hybrid avian flu gets into the wild.

    1. D Patrick Dewey says:

      I hadn’t thought about taking a surgical mask on board a plane but the apparently lax attitude of some airlines about sick people boarding might make it a good idea to have one on hand, just in case. This was a very long flight, too, from Dubai to New York. That’s a long time to be sharing the air in a confined space with sick people.

  8. Robert Gendron says:

    Is this a bio attack?

  9. Lilith Whyte says:

    Those people are a disease.

  10. Amy Ruth says:

    Cleanliness is next to Godliness. One of the best things my mother ever taught me.

  11. You never eat the fish on a plane, did these people never watch any disaster movies?

  12. Charlie Watkins says:

    Open the borders and let everyone in. We can heal them when they get here.

  13. Melissa Lipnutz says:

    Guess there’s no screening for infectious diseases…

  14. Another reason to do your own research. Did you see how many discrepancies this story had?

  15. How long will it be before we see the first goat to human AIDS pandemic?
    Perhaps it is already started.

  16. Dwain Meyer says:

    I went on vacation and I’ll I got to show for it was a lousy 3d world disease.

  17. Am I a conspiracy theorist by asking why, when WMD of the gun and bomb types are rigorously screened prior to passengers embarking on a flight and WMD of the viral infectious variety aren’t?

    There are players in the Middle East area looking for any and all ways to attack the US – especially after their sham JPOA ‘deal’ was dumped.

    Any inferences about real countries are purely intentional.

  18. Joe Pace says:

    Who wants to buy my carbon credits?

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