More than two dozen passengers became ill with a stomach bug during a 14-hour Qantas flight from Chile to Australia yesterday, with 16 taken by ambulance to a hospital on arrival at Sydney airport, officials said. The 26 sick passengers were part of the same tour group and were suspected to have contracted their gastrointestinal illness before they boarded the flight in Santiago, Qantas said. Network Ten television reported that the sick passengers were Australian high school students returning to their hometown of Melbourne after attending the Roman Catholic event World Youth Day in Brazil.
The New South Wales state Health Ministry said in a statement that the passengers developed vomiting and diarrhea consistent with norovirus infection, a common cause of outbreaks of gastroenteritis in Australia and elsewhere. The ill passengers were moved to seats at the rear of the plane near where four toilets were located, Australian Associated Press reported. The Boeing 747 was met by ambulance paramedics who treated the sick passengers in quarantine. Qantas said other passengers were advised to keep a close eye on their health over the next two days and to seek medical advice if they feel ill. (Read more norovirus stories.)