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70 Passengers Fall Sick on a Plane from Uknown Stomach Bug.

Posted in Our Blog on May 22, 2024

70 passengers fell sick on a plane from unknown stomach bug.

You are 38,000 feet in altitude and the person next to you begins wrenching. You look around and see other passengers do the same.

Forget Snakes on a Plane! This was mass vomit on a plane.

Unfortunately, this was no Hollywood movie. This actually happened.

Passengers Fall Sick on a Plane Flight from Mauritius to Frankfurt

Condor airline Flight DE2315 started out as normal. Passengers boarded the plane in Mauritius on a plane bound for Frankfurt at 7:55 AM that morning.

On a flight this long, meals are usually included. For a good number of people, this was a perk they would remember for a lifetime.

About halfway through the flight, passengers began to feel queasy. Not for the usual reasons.

Sadly. No.

The source was likely a stomach bug, a commonly used term for food poisoning.

70 of the 290 Passengers Sick on a Plane

Seemingly out of nowhere. Several passengers began feeling sick. Before long, 70 of the 290 people on board reported symptoms, including nausea and vomiting.

Can you imagine?!

With so many people becoming sick on a plane and the flight already in progress for quite some time, the situation became an emergency.

The crew called ahead to the German airport to alert them of the unfolding emergency.

The Flight Continued On Course

There was no emergency landing. The pilot and crew had everything under control.

“She [the pilot/crew] is also educated and trained for special situations like this,” said a statement from the airline to the German newspaper Bild.

“After carefully examining the overall situation, the flight continued. The aircraft landed safely in Frankfurt, where medical professionals were available to care for the affected guests,” continued the statement.

Indeed there were.

The Airbus A330 aircraft, landing in Frankfurt around 5:33 PM local time, was greeted by a large crew of emergency services.

Fortunately, both the pilot and crew were spared from the illness.

What Would Cause So Many People to Fall Sick on a Plane at the Same Time?

As with most cases of vomiting and diarrhea, suspicion falls to food. In this case, most passengers consumed a meal on the flight.

While no definitive answer has been given as to the source, Condor says it has begun an investigation into the event. The carrier would not comment on whether or not the onboard catering could have been responsible for the illnesses.

But what type of bug could make people fall so violently ill so quickly?

Most Foodborne Illnesses Take at Least a Day or So for Symptoms to Appear

The type of stomach bug (or pathogen) is drastically narrowed based the short time between potential exposure and symptom onset.

Most types of foodborne illnesses, like E. coli, Salmonella, and norovirus take at least a few days for symptoms to appear. In this case, the passengers may have been infected at some point during their stay in Mauritius.

A common tourist restaurant, or some type of event in the area are potential sources.

However, if passengers did fall sick on a plane during a flight, the most likely suspect would be Staph food poisoning.

What is Staph Food Poisoning? And How Is It Spread?

Staph food poisoning is the illness associated with consuming foods contaminated with the toxins produced by the bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus, or Staph bacteria.

Staph Bacteria Can Live on the Skin of Healthy People

These bacteria are commonly found on the skin and in the nose. In fact, about 25% have it on them. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will become sick, just because it is on the skin. In fact, normally healthy people are not bothered by the bacteria at all.

The problem comes when the toxins made by the bacteria make their way into food.

Illness Spreads When the Bacteria Contaminate Food

When a person carrying the Staph bacteria on their skin doesn’t wash their hands before touching or preparing foods, that food can become contaminated.

While in the food, the bacteria can begin to reproduce and multiply. The more bacteria present, the more toxins are produced. It is these toxins that make people sick.

Cooking Does Not Destroy Toxins

Staph bacteria can easily infect both prepared and raw foods. But even raw foods, cooked properly, are vulnerable to Staph contamination.

You see, while the bacteria are killed during cooking, even at appropriate internal temperatures toxins are not destroyed. Therefore, any toxins produced by the bacteria prior to cooking can still cause illness.

Commonly Contaminated Foods

Technically speaking, any food can become contaminated with Staph bacteria. However, certain foods pose a greater risk. These primarily include those not cooked after handling.

Foods like sliced meats, puddings, pastries, and sandwiches are at greater risk of Staph bacterial contamination.

Unfortunately, you cannot tell if a food is contaminated with Staph bacteria just by looking at it. Food contaminated by Staph toxin may not look any different or have an off smell. There is no way to know.

Symptoms of Staph Food Poisoning

Much like the passengers who became sick on the plane from Mauritius to Frankfurt, common symptoms of Staph food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. These symptoms can begin as early as 30 minutes after eating or drinking a contaminated food item, though some may not fall sick for up to 8 hours.

Most people begin feeling better within a day. Severe illness is rare with Staph food poisoning and fortunately, the illness is not contagious. Someone sick from consuming Staph toxins cannot pass the illness to another person.

Not The First Time a Group of People Have Become Sick on a Plane En Mass

While it isn’t a common occurrence, this is not the first time a large foodborne outbreak has hit a plane midflight. A more extreme case happened in 1975 on a flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Paris, France.

In this case, the plane was forced to land.

Over half of the passengers on board became sick. 197 of the 344 people on board fell sick with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. An in-flight meal contaminated with Staphylococci was cited as the cause.

This was the largest food poisoning incident aboard a commercial airliner in history. According to reports, there were no fatalities. However, 44 of the passengers became so sick that they required hospitalization – 30 were in critical condition.

The illnesses in this Alaska to France flight was traced back to a cook with Staphylococci lesions on one of their hands that prepared the food in Anchorage.

Stay in Touch with Make Food Safe!

If you’d like to know more about food safety topics in the news, like “70 Passengers Fall Sick on a Plane from Uknown Stomach Bug.” check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more! Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)