Dozens of United Airlines passengers report feeling ill during the flight to Houston; Officials point to a possible cause

(NEXSTAR) – Passengers aboard a United Airlines flight from Vancouver to Houston reported feeling ill upon arrival Friday afternoon, prompting the airline to take the plane out of service for a “deep cleaning,” a United spokesperson confirmed .

A total of 25 passengers became ill, Martee Black, a spokesperson for the Houston Fire Department, told Nexstar. Three were treated on-site at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, according to the Houston Airport System; the rest chose to continue their journey or go home.

“Public health officials from CDC's Houston Port Health Station worked with EMS to evaluate sick passengers on board,” a CDC spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement obtained by Nexstar.

Most of the sick passengers had only “mild gastrointestinal symptoms,” the CDC added, and none showed fever.

“No passengers met CDC criteria for further public health follow-up,” the CDC wrote. “Passengers on the flight continued with their travel plans.”

Black, of the Houston Fire Department, said the sick passengers had previously been on a cruise together. (In total, about 75 of the United passengers were on the same cruise, HFD said.) United Airlines also indicated in its statement that at least “several” of the sick passengers “had been on the same cruise” before boarding. the flight in Vancouver.

Neither HFD nor United have said which cruise the passengers may have taken.

“United Airlines is actively coordinating with health authorities to address the situation,” an airline spokesperson said. “As a precaution, the aircraft will be removed from service and undergo a thorough cleaning before returning to service. Ensuring the health and safety of our passengers and crew remains our top priority.”

Meanwhile, cases of norovirus on cruise ships have been reported by several cruise lines in recent months, sickening hundreds of passengers, according to the CDC.

Outbreaks of norovirus are believed to be the “most common” cause of stomach flu on cruise ships, the CDC notes, although cruises are a relatively rare setting for such outbreaks, accounting for only about 1% in the U.S., the agency says. (They are more commonly reported in health care facilities, restaurants and child care centers.) Still, such outbreaks “can be especially challenging to control” on cruise ships because passengers share recreation and dining areas, the CDC says.

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