A man on board a flight from Philadelphia to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic yelled “I have Ebola!” shortly before the plane landed. While authorities determined that the exclamation was a “joke in poor taste,” medical personnel in full protective gear were required to inspect the plane on the runway before passengers could leave.
According to ABC News, the US Airways Flight landed without incident after a passenger was overheard claiming to have Ebola on the plane. Upon landing, passengers were warned that they would not be allowed to leave the plane until a medical team investigated the case “due to a possible health issue on board.”
In video taken by passengers, a flight attendant is seen explaining the protocol for inspecting the plane. “It’s going to look worse than it is,” she remarked, also calling the passenger making the remark “an idiot.”
According to the Dominican outlet Diario Libre, passengers reported that the 54-year-old passenger sneezed and then said “I have Ebola, you’re all screwed” shortly before landing. According to the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Health, the man had no history of contact with Ebola patients and no travel history indicating he had ever been in West Africa. “It is absolutely false the information that states that through the Punta Cana Airport a person suspected of being sick with Ebola arrived in our country,” confirmed the communications director for the ministry, Eduardo Rosario Bourdierd.
Airport officials also confirmed that there was no reason to suspect the man had ever come into contact with the Ebola virus, expect for his own shouts to everyone on the crew. Punta Cana airport director of Terminals and Maintenance, Alberto Smith, noted that the inspection resulted in a “false alarm create by the very passenger, due to some sort of imbalance.” Authorities further described the outburst as a “bad joke.”
The World Health Organization revealed this week that the death toll for the deadly Ebola virus is nearing 4,000– at 3,865. That toll includes Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who became the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the history of the United States, as well as two Spanish missionaries who died in Madrid after contracting the disease in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The number of diagnosed cases has also increased exponentially to close to 8,000, as health authorities begin to reach difficult to access communities in rural areas of the aforementioned countries and Guinea, the nation where the current outbreak originated.