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Ebola Joke Triggers Passenger's Removal From US Airways Flight

Updated at 12:40 p.m. ET

Call it a sign of the times: An airline passenger sneezes, makes a joke about Ebola and is quickly escorted from the plane by hazmat-suited personnel.

That's what reportedly happened aboard a US Airways flight that had landed in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, shortly after arriving from Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Dominican press reports that the passenger said: "I have Ebola. You're all screwed."

In a YouTube video filmed aboard the plane, a flight attendant announces: "I need your attention, OK? It's going to look worse than it is, OK? I really want you to remember, from the depth of my being, I've done this for 36 years; I think the man that has said this is an idiot. ...

"I know you all have your phones and your, you know, video and all that stuff. That's up to you and the video and the stuff. But stay out of their face and out of their way. And, please, only take good shots of me. OK?" she says.

Then, two people dressed in blue hazmat suits board the plane as generally relaxed-looking passengers watch and use their cellphones to film the incident. They work their way to the passenger in question and escort him from the plane. As he's disembarking, he can be heard saying: "I ain't from Africa, s- - -."

US Airways issued this statement: "Flight 845 from Philadelphia to Punta Cana was met yesterday by local officials upon landing due to a possible health issue on board. We are following the direction of, and strictly adhering to, all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in place for airlines in response to the Ebola virus. The flight was checked by officials and cleared. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, but the safety of our customers and employees is our first priority."

The Associated Press reports that the man, whose name has not been released, tested negative for Ebola and that his passport did not show that he had been to Africa.

It's worth noting (again) that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said: "The risk of spreading Ebola to passengers or crew on an aircraft is low because Ebola spreads by direct contact with infected body fluids."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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