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Coughing, Sneezing Cause Concern Onboard Flight From China

Flu-Like Symptoms Turn Out To Be... The Flu

Officials with the Center for Disease Control were concerned when several passengers onboard a Continental Airlines flight from Hong Kong appeared ill, as their plane made its way to Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday.

The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger reports Flight 98, with 272 passengers onboard, arrive at Newark shortly after 1400 EDT Monday afternoon, and was immediately greeted by members of the CDC's Global Migration and Quarantine Office, based at New York's LaGuardia.

The plane's flight crew reportedly became concerned when several passengers, part of a 120-member tour group that had spent three weeks in China visiting several locales such as Tianamen Square and the Great Wall, began sneezing and coughing... which raised the ominous specter of bird flu.

Those concerns were quickly put to rest, however, when the CDC concluded the symptoms exhibited by passengers on the Boeing 777 were due to "seasonal flu," and not a potentially virulent strain of avian influenza.

"It was cold there, and many of us caught colds," explained tour member Lise Lortie.

"The first we heard of it was when we landed," added passenger Susan Blair. "They said they had a few sick people and had to keep the door closed until someone could be brought on board to check them out. The pilot made it sound like they had to clear some bureaucratic hurdles more than anything."

Passengers were allowed to deplane approximately two hours later, according to a Port Authority spokesman.

FMI: www.cdc.gov, www.continental.com

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