Two health scares at U.S. airports tied to Mecca pilgrims: U.S. officials


CHICAGO (Reuters) – Two main health scares at U.S. airports involving inbound flights are associated to pilgrims coming back from the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to the holy metropolis of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which resulted in late August, U.S. health officials mentioned on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: The emergency companies are seen, after the passengers have been taken unwell on a flight from New York to Dubai, on JFK Airport, New York, U.S., September 05, 2018 on this nonetheless picture obtained from social media. Larry Coben/by way of REUTERS

On Wednesday, U.S. health officials despatched an emergency response group with cell diagnostic gear to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after they have been advised that greater than 100 passengers aboard an Emirates airways flight from Dubai have been experiencing flu-like signs.

Dr. Martin Cetron, director for the division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, advised Reuters in a phone interview that health officials evaluated practically 549 passengers at the airport, and despatched a complete of 11 folks to a neighborhood hospital for extra testing.

Ten folks have been examined for a battery of respiratory viruses and micro organism in hopes of ruling out severe pathogens that might present a public health risk.

Two of them examined optimistic for an particularly virulent sort of influenza A virus, and one of many two, who was gravely unwell with pneumonia, was co-infected with one other respiratory virus, Cetron mentioned. A 3rd person examined optimistic for a chilly virus.

FILE PHOTO: Passengers go away the airplane being assisted by the air cabin crew and the emergency companies on a flight from New York to Dubai, on JFK Airport, New York, U.S., September 05, 2018 on this nonetheless picture obtained from social media. Larry Coben/by way of REUTERS

All three had taken half within the Hajj, which this 12 months drew some 2 million folks to Mecca, Cetron mentioned.

Seven crew members, who boarded the flight in Dubai and weren’t at the pilgrimage, examined adverse for various respiratory infections of public health concern, Cetron mentioned.

The subsequent day, two flights arriving in Philadelphia from Europe have been screened by medical groups after 12 passengers reported flu-like signs. One of them had visited Mecca for the Hajj.

Cetron mentioned health officials in New York had been ready to quarantine a big group of sick passengers in an space at the airport. From a complete of 11 passengers taken to hospital for analysis, 10 have been examined for respiratory signs; one confirmed indicators of food poisoning.

“It was a much smaller incident. That’s not uncommon,” Cetron mentioned. “Often the incoming information from multiple sources can be exaggerated beyond what we really find.”

All 10 sufferers with respiratory signs examined adverse for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS, a extremely infectious and lethal respiratory an infection that was first recognized within the Middle East in 2012.

FILE PHOTO: A common view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Tami Chappell/File Photo

The CDC was not alerted upfront concerning the two flights that landed in Philadelphia from Paris and Munich, however a number of vacationers had complained of sickness, triggering a “medical review” of 250 passengers from these flights, a spokesman mentioned.

Twelve passengers have been discovered to have sore throats and coughs, and one additionally examined optimistic for the flu, a CDC spokesman confirmed.

The responses have been a part of a well-rehearsed community of public health officials educated to determine and comprise pathogens as U.S. airports and ports of entry, Cetron mentioned.

“Our most critical issue was to rule several respiratory illnesses of urgent public health significance,” Cetron mentioned.

Cetron mentioned the CDC screens databases to observe outbreaks of infectious illness that might put up a deal with within the United States. Although unlikely, MERS was positively a priority that the group wanted to rule out, he mentioned.

“That was a low-probability, high consequence event that we wanted to rule out,” he mentioned.

The CDC mentioned in a press release that the circumstances have been a reminder that flu season is coming, and urged all U.S. residents six months or older to get a flu shot by the top of October.

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York


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