It's a real fear for a lot of people – being stuck on an airplane because another passenger might have a highly contagious disease. But the woman whose rash caused passengers on a Delta Airlines flight from Detroit to Chicago to be quarantined on the tarmac at Chicago Midway Airport for three hours Thursday night says doctors eventually told her she did not have monkey pox, as first suspected.
Lise Sievers, 50, is originally from LaPorte, Indiana. She now lives in Red Wing, Minnesota where she is in the process of adopting two special needs children from Uganda, in Africa.
Before leaving Uganda, she noticed her 4-year-old soon-to-be-adopted son had pus-filled spots on his body.
The day she left, she realized she had tiny, itchy red dots on her own body that were spreading. She thought they were bug bites from not sleeping underneath a mosquito net while staying in a Ugandan hotel. But Thursday, while on the last leg of her flight from Detroit to Chicago, Sievers realized her rash was spreading. Her children were not on the plane with her.
“When I was talking to my mom, I was worried about my son and these pustules he had,” Sievers told WSBT during an interview in her mother's New Carlisle home. “But I tend to run my conversations together. Then I was talking about bug bites I got.”
“I probably just took it to mean that she was breaking out with the same thing and didn’t question a whole lot about any other symptoms or anything,” said Sievers’ mother, Sally Lunsford.
Lunsford and another daughter called LaPorte Hospital, who then told her they were not equipped to handle that type of situation. The hospital contacted the Centers for Disease Control, who grounded the plane at Midway. There, she and other passengers saw fire trucks, ambulances and people in haz-mat suits surrounding the plane.
“My assumption is they wanted to make very sure I didn't get off that plane and that nobody got off that plane,” she said.
Then, all passengers heard the pilot’s voice.
“[He said] ‘There’s a possibility of a contagion on board,'” and Sievers said her jaw dropped, realizing the announcement likely stemmed from her conversation with her mother. “I’m thinking ‘My little red spots?’”
She said other passengers on the plane were very nice when she raised her hand and said she was the one with the possibly contagious rash.
Many passengers held their shirts over their nose, she said.
Three hours later, a series of photographs sent to the CDC confirmed Sievers had bug bites and it was safe for all passengers to deplane.
Although she felt embarrassed by the situation, Sievers was happy to be in the clear.
“They responded totally appropriately for the situation,” she added.
After getting off the plane, Sievers met up with her mom in New Carlisle. That’s where she’s staying for a couple days before going home to Minnesota. She still went to the hospital to get checked out, where she said a doctor diagnosed her with scabies – an easily treatable rash caused by mites.
Sievers also noted the incident may have saved her life. She has a rare blood disorder that causes bruises all over her body and the scabies was making it worse. The doctor was able to catch it in time and treat it appropriately.
The two Ugandan children she’s adopting were not on the plane with Sievers. She’s planning to head back to Africa late next month and bring them home in early June. She’s already adopted ten children from the United States and has two biological children.