By Matt Rivers
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A single comment about Ebola from one passenger on a flight out of Philadelphia prompted a scare in the air and a dramatic response when the plane finally landed.
We want to tell you up front that no one had Ebola on the plane.
But this situation demonstrates how public health officials are trying to stay on top of the threat and how even a mention of this deadly disease is taken extremely seriously.
It all happened on a U.S. Airways flight from Philadelphia to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
For those on board U.S. Air flight 845, it started normal enough. When that flight landed, a flight attendant made this announcement.
“I want you to keep your wits about you. There will be some people coming on. Please stay out of their way, please let them do their job,” said the flight attendant in a video.
The person, who posted a video to YouTube, wrote the passengers “were told by the flight attendants that there was a situation and that a passenger may have been in Africa and had Ebola. She was certain it was a hoax, but did not take any chances.”
A team of local officials wearing hazmat suits boarded the plane, recorded by many passengers as the team walked to the back. From there, they escorted an unidentified man off the plane.
In a statement, the airline confirmed the incident saying, “We are following the direction of, and strictly adhering to, all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in place for airlines in response to the Ebola virus. The flight was checked by officials and cleared.” As for the passenger:
“The symptoms would be evaluated. They would decide whether or not this patient merited Ebola testing, and if so, then that would occur,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja.
Dr. Adalja is an infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He says the medical community would have fast learned if the case had been real.
“From the medical perspective this seems like a joke, a hoax, that really went badly. I would really advise people to take this seriously because Ebola is no joke and people are very anxious about it,” he said.
The passengers were let off the plane about two hours after it landed.
As far as that false Ebola scare, U.S. Airways said it regrets the inconvenience, but it places passenger safety above all else.
A spokesperson for U.S. Airways released the following statement:
“US Airways flight 845 from Philadelphia to Punta Cana was met yesterday by local officials upon landing due to a possible health issue on board. We are following the direction of, and strictly adhering to, all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in place for airlines in response to the Ebola virus. The flight was checked by officials and cleared. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused but the safety of our customers and employees is our first priority.”
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