An American passenger was booted off a US Airways flight and screened after reportedly joking that he had Ebola and telling the rest of the flyers they were “screwed.”
During a flight from Philadelphia to the Dominican Republic, the 54-year-old American – who remains unidentified – reportedly yelled, “I have Ebola, you are all screwed,” according to the Dominican news outlet Diario Libre.
He also yelled out, “I’ve been to Africa!” an airport official told Fox News Latino.
He didn’t yell “bomb,” but he might as well have. After the supposed joke was aired, there was noticeable panic and concern on the airplane, which was carrying 290 passengers. The plane was isolated as soon as it landed in Punta Cana, where a medical team outfitted with hazmat suits boarded the aircraft and removed the passenger.
After conducting a medical check, the passenger was found not to be infected with the virus. Though he was coughing on the flight, he had no fever when he was inspected. He had never been to Africa, either.
In a video captured by a passenger, an African-American can be seen being taken out of the plane by medical officials.
“We delivered the passenger to the airline, which has its policy, but he will be returned to the United States, where he will be submitted to another rigorous check,” Walter Zemialkowski, the director of operations at the International Airport of Punta Cana, said to Diario Libre.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health said there was a passenger suspected of having Ebola, but that the results were negative for the virus.
“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,” said Eduardo Rosario Bourdierd, the ministry’s communications director.
Other passengers were kept from leaving the plane for almost two hours until they were allowed to leave.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, but the safety of our customers and crews is our main priority,” US Airways said in a statement to Fox.
Of course, concern over Ebola is the highest it’s been since the outbreak began in West Africa. This week, the first patient to be diagnosed with the virus in the United States died, sparking calls for action and even travel bans from politicians and pundits. The US announced on Wednesday that it would begin screening incoming travelers at five major American airports.
Cases of Ebola have topped 8,000 now, according to official data from the World Health Organization, though many cases could actually be unreported. The death toll continues to climb near 4,000, and officials have stressed the outbreak is unprecedented and may continue to get worse.