Ebola outbreak: Full scale alert as aircraft passenger jokes 'I have Ebola! You are all screwed'

Emergency medical teams dressed in protective suits boarded the plane when it landed in the Dominican Republic

A full-scale alert was sparked when a man on a flight from the US to the Dominican Republic joked, “I have Ebola! You are all screwed.”

Passengers were ordered to stay in their seats as emergency medical teams dressed in protective suits boarded the aircraft at Punta Cana airport to confront a traveller who had been coughing during the trip from the US.

A few minutes later the man, said to be a 54-year-old from the US, was escorted from the US Airways aircraft protesting, “I ain’t from Africa. S***.”

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Medical teams dressed in protective suits boarded the aircraft

The Dominican authorities said after an investigation that they were satisfied the passenger had been making a joke, albeit in questionable taste, and that he did not have Ebola.

Paola Rainieri, a communications executive at Grupo Punta Cana which owns the airport, described the comment as a “joke of poor taste”.

She said: “We don’t know why he did it, but he thought it would be a cute joke that would not be so serious. Thankfully it was only a scare.”

Walter Zemialkowski, director of operations at the airport, said the aircraft had been isolated before being boarded as a precaution. The unnamed passenger was taken to a medical area for a check up.

“He will be returned to the United States, where he will be submitted to another rigorous check,“ Mr Zemialkowski added.

 

The authorities directed the aircraft to an isolated spot at the airport after the flight’s captain contacted them shortly before landing to report concerns voiced by passengers. The plane, with more than 200 people on board, was kept in isolation for two hours.

The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Public Health confirmed there had been fears the passenger might have had Ebola but said it was a false alarm.

Spokesman Eduardo Rosario Bourdierd said: “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.” The US is taking the threat of Ebola seriously following the death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first man to be diagnosed with the virus outside of West Africa, in Dallas, Texas. American medical authorities have kept those who came into contact with Mr Duncan in isolation, while the Texas Sheriff's deputy was rushed to hospital this week amid fears of infection.

Teresa Romero Ramos, the Spanish nurse who became the first person to contract the deadly virus outside of West Africa, remains in hospital. Medical officials said on Thursday that her condition had worsened, but would not release further details.

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