Via Radio New Zealand, where the scare has died down: Officials may have reacted over suspected flu scare. Excerpt and then a comment:
Health officials in Auckland admit they may have overreacted after quarantining a flight from Japan carrying students who appeared to have the flu.
But the Auckland Regional Public Health Service says it has to take a stringent approach and treat such scenarios as potentially serious.
The Air New Zealand flight carrying 274 passengers arrived at Auckland Airport from Tokyo on Monday morning.
The Boeing 777-200 plane was cordoned off and health officials were called in after some Japanese home-stay students showed signs of the flu.
The Health Service says all of the students had already been immunised against seasonal influenza.
A spokesperson for the home-stay group says it appears there was an over-reaction.
I would love to read the memos that come out of today's excitement (not to mention the emails and tweets the kids are already sending to their friends and families in Japan). This incident may have caused some embarrassment to officials, but it was a great learning opportunity.
Ideally, air crew will get some training in recognizing symptoms of various diseases, as well as how to deal more effectively with passengers who fall ill. Airport and hospital staff will review their present guidelines for responding to arrivals with serious symptoms—and for communicating with those arrivals, those meeting them, and the public in general.
We've seen this scenario in Contagion, of course, and Flublogia has speculated on it for years. But we've also seen it really happen, when British kids on holiday in Mexico flew home with H1N1 in 2009. And something very like it happened in 2002-03 when people flew from Hong Kong to Canada while carrying SARS.
So never mind the embarrassment. Airlines, public health officials, and security people should all be reviewing their current policies in the light of today's scare in Auckland.