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Arik Air passenger dies after vomiting on flight from Nigeria to JFK

A passenger traveling from Nigeria to the U.S. died of a heart attack after vomiting in his seat and complaining of chest pains.

By
Gabrielle Levy
Arik Air plane. CC/Biggerben
Arik Air plane. CC/Biggerben

NEW YORK, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- A 63-year-old man who died aboard a flight from Nigeria to New York did not have Ebola, officials said.

Health officials wearing hazmat suits boarded the Arik Air flight from Lagos when it landed at JFK's Terminal 4 at 5:45 p.m.

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The victim, a U.S. citizen, had died an hour before landing. He was traveling alone, vomiting and complaining of chest pains before he died, a Port Authority source told the New York Daily News.

Passengers were held on the plane while Centers for Disease Control and Pervention workers examined the man and determined he had died of a heart attack, not the virulent disease that has killed nearly 4,000 people, nearly all of them in West Africa.

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According to the World Health Organization, no new cases of Ebola have been detected in Nigeria in 39 days. If no new cases arrive before Monday, Oct. 20, the WHO will declare the epidemic over in Nigeria, as it did for Senegal Friday.

On Saturday, JFK became the first of five U.S. airports to begin implementing Ebola screenings for flights coming from West Africa. Similar screenings have been put in place at Washington Dulles, Newark Liberty, Chicago O'Hare and Atlanta airports this week.

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Despite the additional measures, and unsurprisingly, considering the misplaced panic over Ebola, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., sent an excoriating letter to Customs officials accusing them of doing only a "cursory" job examining the body of the victim.

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"Given the high volume of travelers at JFK, it is essential that extraordinary measures are taken to intercept possible Ebola-infected passengers," King wrote in his letter to Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson and Customs Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske.

"Based on what I know of this situation, I have very serious concerns about the cursory exam conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official to determine the passenger did not have Ebola, as well as the lack of instructions provided to CBP and [Port Authority] Police regarding handling the remains and the remainder of the passengers," he wrote.

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact of body fluids, not by air or water, and a person is only contagious once he or she begins to demonstrate symptoms.

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