A Minnesota woman who caused a health scare aboard a Delta Airlines flight from Detroit — causing the plane to be kept on the tarmac at Midway International Airport Thursday for three hours — says it was all a misunderstanding over bug bites.
Lise Sievers of Red Wing was one of 43 passengers aboard Delta flight 3163 to Midway when it touched down and the captain announced the plane would be briefly quarantined. Men with surgical masks over their faces boarded the plane, and rumors flew as passengers tried to figure out what sort of contagion might be spreading through the cabin.
Sievers said she had been in Uganda, where she is adopting two special needs children and “stayed at a hotel the other night and I think it left friends on my body. My son, who’s four and a half, had pustules on him.”
Before she left Detroit, she told her mother that she had a rash, apparently from bed bugs, and that the boy had pustules. But her mother misunderstood and “conflicting information” was passed on to health officials, who feared Sievers might have monkeypox.
Sievers, 50, who was on the tail end of a 20-plus hour trip that began in Uganda, where she had spent more than three months trying to finalize the adoption of two special needs children, wondered as well, said her son, Roger Sievers.
During a layover in Detroit, she had called her mother in LaPorte, Ind., and mentioned one of the children she was trying to adopt had broken out in pustules-small, pimple-like sores– during her visit, and that the boy had to be taken to the hospital in Uganda. Sievers also mentioned to her mother that she had suffered an unrelated case of itchy bites she believed had been inflicted by bedbugs.
While Sievers’ flight was en route to Midway, her mother confused Sievers’ bug bites and the boy’s pustules, and called her local hospital to ask what she should do to prepare to treat her daughter’s symptoms.
“Any time you mention you’ve been in a tropical country like Uganda and you’ve developed what sounds like an infectious disease, well, they call the CDC (Center for Disease Control) right away,” said Roger Sievers.
Indeed, according to a press release from the CDC issued Thursday, authorities suspected she may have come down with monkey pox, a contagious disease that occurs mostly in western Africa that causes victims to break out in small, crusty bumps. Sievers, however, was as surprised as anyone when her plane was surrounded by ambulances and fire vehicles when it landed at Midway, her son said.
Aboard the plane, health crews took pictures of her rash. Experts determined they were bug bites and let Sievers and her fellow passengers off the plane. Sievers went to a hospital for additional tests-which turned up nothing, her son said-and was resting at a relative’s house in Indiana Thursday night.
Sievers will head back to Uganda in a month to finalize the adoption of the two children who will be the latest of more than 10 children she has adopted over more than 20 years, her son said. The adoption process had dragged on so long, the extra few hours on the tarmac at Midway didn’t seem to faze her, Roger Sievers said. Her fellow passengers were polite, even the ones seated close to her, he said.