By Luisa Yanez
MIAMI, USA (MCT) — American Airlines officials on Friday confirmed a passenger arriving at Miami International Airport from the Dominican Republic on Thanksgiving night appeared to be suffering from cholera and experienced symptoms during the flight.
The man, whose name was not released, was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 778 from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to Miami, not directly from neighboring Haiti, where an outbreak of cholera in recent weeks has killed hundreds of people.
The Boeing 767-300 arrived in Miami at around 6 p.m. EDT on Thursday.
"Before landing, the crew radioed down and advised they had a passenger onboard who had symptom that appeared to be cholera and he would need immediate medical attention the minute they landed," said Tim Smith, spokesman for American Airlines in Fort Worth, Texas.
Emergency workers at MIA were waiting for the flight. The man was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. It has not been confirmed the man has cholera pending medical testing.
The carrier immediately notified the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Smith said. Other passengers on the flight should not be affected.
In some situations, cholera is contagious and can be-fatal. The disease is caused by a bacterial infection of the intestine which causes severe dehydration. Smith said the plane involved was taken out of circulation immediately and "thoroughly cleaned." The plane returned to service Friday morning.
Passengers from Haiti and the Dominican Republic are being scrutinized due to the spreading disease. Smith said if the passenger had appeared ill at boarding he would not have been allowed on the Miami-bound flight, which takes about two-hours.
"He became ill in some fashion during the flight," Smith said.
A doctor on board the flight assisted the sick man, Smith said. He could not confirm if the passenger affected was also a medical professional who had been working in Haiti, as sources told The Miami Herald.
Kristen Nordlund, a CDC spokeswoman in Atlanta, said they were aware of the case but could not confirm if it was cholera.
"To our knowledge, it’s still considered a suspect case," she said. "It has not been confirmed as cholera."
Neither could Rob Hayes, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee.
If the cholera case were to be confirmed, it would be the first documented in Miami-Dade County and possibly the third in Florida.
Earlier this month, a Collier County woman who had returned from Haiti was found to be suffering from the disease. She has recovered. A second case is suspected but has not been officially confirmed by health officials.
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