About 40 of the more than 300 evacuees who arrived Thursday from Iraqi-occupied Kuwait were sick, state officials said. Some said they drank tainted water, but a psychologist attributed the symptoms to stress.
Emergency workers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport called in extra nurses to help treat the passengers. A pregnant woman suffering from dehydration and another complaining of chest pains were taken to hospitals.Some passengers believed they drank tainted water in Iraq, but medical officials were unable to substantiate that claim and a psychologist greeting the passengers believed the symptoms were stress-related. The number of sick passengers was higher than on earlier evacuation flights.
Joe Myers, director of state Emergency Services, said the Pan Am 747 carried about 338 passengers, 292 of them Americans. About 40 of the passengers were sick.
Nearly 150 of the passengers were under age 12, including 73 who are 2 years old or younger, officials said.
"We've had a lot of sickness - vomiting, diarrhea and fever - and a lot of sick kids so far," Myers said.
"Apparently, a lot of the passengers had heard that the water they had been given to drink (in Iraq) had been contaminated," said Graham Wilson, spokesman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. "That rumor got started among the passengers, and when they started getting sick they assumed the rumors were true."
Mawiyaah Kambon, a psychologist with the Wake County Mental Health Department, said stress could have triggered the symptoms, especially since many of the passengers were foreigners who left their jobs and homes in Kuwait.
The State Department said another freedom flight for Americans trapped in Kuwait when Iraq invaded the country Aug. 2 was expected to arrive Sunday in the United States.