Earlier today, a flight that had left Dubai in the United Arab Emirates landed at JFK International Airport in New York with 549 passengers and crew on board—and was promptly quarantined due to a mysterious ailment spreading throughout the cabin. In the neighborhood of 100 people on board showed symptoms including coughing, fever, and vomiting, though only 11 ended up being taken to hospitals for evaluation.
Centers for Disease Control staff, working with regional authorities and Customs and Border Protection officials, later said it had “completed health evaluations (including taking temperatures)” of all on board and cleared the vast majority to move forward with their days. Apparently among those given the green light was none other than recording artist Robert Matthew Van Winkle, who is almost certainly much better known under his stage name Vanilla Ice.
Ice tweeted updates from the plane as emergency personnel converged around it on the tarmac at JFK:
Ice had previously tweeted he was going to Dubai. One of his tour managers, Chuck Quon, confirmed to Gizmodo via email that Ice was on the plane but exhibited no symptoms:
I can verify that he was on the plane, and was released with all the other passengers that did not exhibit any symptoms. I have no other information about the situation beyond that.
Also, he is not in NY any longer. He has already flown home.
Ice is widely familiar as the one-hit-wonder rapper behind the 1989 song “Ice Ice Baby” and his subsequent career on reality TV, the latter of which resulted in his arrest for burglary in 2015. So his presence on the flight triggered lots of jokes that Ice could be JFK’s unlikely protagonist in the event the mysterious ailment was a world-ending plague or some other catastrophe:
Health officials are still attempting to determine what the cause of the symptoms exhibited by the passengers was. But according to CNN, they have pinned the most likely contagion as a form of influenza. Passengers told the network that numerous individuals on the plane were exhibiting symptoms prior to boarding, contesting Dubai officials’ belief that it was food poisoning. Authorities are also considering the possibility it was a more serious ailment like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) “out of an abundance of caution,” CNN wrote.
The CDC wrote on its website that only two MERS-CoV cases have previously been confirmed in the U.S. and it has mostly spread in health care environments, though warned that “most people infected with MERS-CoV developed severe respiratory illness.” The condition can be fatal, so for the sake of everyone, let’s hope that this is just the flu.