One airline says it will no longer use water from Hopkins after six people were sickened on a flight from Cleveland to Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, and the City of Cleveland says it has launched an investigation.
Tampa fire said four adults and two children became sick on a Frontier flight with nausea and vomiting. They all refused treatment, according to fire officials in Tampa.
Frontier Airlines released the following statement after the incident:
"During Frontier flight 1397 from Cleveland to Tampa this afternoon, six passengers became ill. The aircraft was met by local emergency medical services upon arrival in Tampa. Those passengers displaying symptoms were evaluated by medical staff before being released. All other passengers were released after a brief holding period. The cause of the illness remains under investigation. Passenger safety is Frontier’s number one priority."
Michelle Dynia, a spokesperson for Cleveland Hopkins, said on Tuesday the airport was looking into the possibility that the water fountains could be connected to the six people who became ill on the flight. All water fountains in Concourse A were shut off, according to Dynia.
In response to the incident involving Frontier passengers, Spirit Airlines told News 5, “Spirit Airlines will not be putting any potable water from the airport on our aircraft until this situation has been resolved.”
The City of Cleveland, which operates the airport, released a statement saying it is conducting an investigation:
"Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) received a notification from Frontier Airlines on New Year’s Day that six passengers reported being sick on a flight from CLE to Tampa. The safety of passengers at CLE is our top priority and we are conducting a thorough investigation. While the cause of the illness is unknown, an early report from Frontier indicated each of the passengers may have used a public drinking fountain before the flight.
"Cleveland Department of Public Health (CDPH) is contacting each of the six affected passengers to conduct an interview. We are also working to confirm if all six passengers did in fact drink water from the fountain. CDPH, Cleveland Water and CLE airport staff are working collaboratively to investigate all potential causes, including passenger activities before arriving at the airport.
"Based on our expertise, water borne illnesses generally have a longer incubation period than what we saw in this instance. Also, Cleveland Water has no known water safety issues in the vicinity of CLE, but is collecting additional street-level samples to verify. Since Frontier’s initial report referenced the water fountain, airport staff immediately closed down and sanitized all fountains on Concourse A. CLE airport staff and CDPH are testing fountains and will send water samples to an external Ohio EPA-certified lab for evaluation. Due to the nature of the testing, it will take approximately 24-48 hours before results are ready.
"On New Year’s Day, more than 11,000 passengers traveled through CLE and no other passengers have reported illnesses.”
Dr. Amy Edwards, an infectious disease expert with University Hospitals, doubts the city will ever find the smoking gun.
"I'm thrilled to see there is an investigation going on because I think it will allay people's fears," said Edwards. "But I'm not sure they're going to find anything because I think it's most likely to just have been bad luck."
Edwards said most illnesses and viruses take 12 to 24 hours to make people sick. Because of that, she doubts all six passengers were sickened by a common source.