Passengers on a flight from Nigeria to New York City had the scare of a lifetime Thursday when a 63-year-old Nigerian suffered a fit of vomiting on their flight. The man, as yet unidentified by authorities, boarded the flight in Lagos, Nigeria Wednesday night and was dead by the time the plane landed the next day at New York’s JFK airport.
The New York Post reports the flight crew contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who met the flight at the gate. CDC officials announced the deceased passenger did not have Ebola, but have not offered a cause of death.
The incident understandably alarmed passengers and crew alike. New York Republican Congressman Peter King immediately fired off a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) demanding to know how CDC officials were able to make such a determination so quickly.
King wrote, “It has come to my attention that there is between 70-100 individuals per day arriving at JFK from countries impacted by the Ebola outbreak… These individuals transit the airport with the rest of the traveling population, including using the restrooms. It is only after they arrive at the CBP primary screening location that they are separated and sent to secondary inspection for a medical check and to complete a questionnaire.”
“Based on what I know of this situation,” King continues, “I have very serious concerns about the cursory exam conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official to determine the passenger did not have Ebola, as well as the lack of instructions provided to CPB and PANYNJ Police regarding handling of the remains and the remainder of the passengers.” (You can read King’s entire letter here.)
King told the Post after a “cursory examination,” officials gave the all clear. “The Port Authority cops and personnel from Customs and Border Protection were there, and they were told there was no danger because the person did not have Ebola,” he continued.
“But their concern was,” King said of passengers, “how could you tell so quickly? And what adds to the concern is how wrong the CDC has been over the past few weeks.”
The CDC and the Obama administration have resisted growing calls for a travel ban from Ebola infected nations, and has been bolstered, of late, by Congressional Democrats declaring no need for restrictions.