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False health scare leads to lockdown of plane at Midway

Lise Sievers Redwing MN talks about experience she had about an hour earlier when she was quarantined inside DeltAirlines flight

Lise Sievers of Redwing, MN, talks about the experience she had about an hour earlier, when she was quarantined inside a Delta Airlines flight from Detroit to Midway International Airport Thursday, April 26, 2012, in Chicago. Sievers was showing symptoms of bug bites she acquired while visiting Africa, and all the passengers on the Chicago-bound flight were kept in the plane until medical officials gave the clearance to disembark. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 28, 2012 9:10AM

A case of bedbugs — and a little motherly misunderstanding — led to a Delta plane being held on lockdown at Midway airport Thursday.

Lise Sievers, 50, of Red Wing, Minn., found herself at the center of the embarrassing mix-up after authorities wrongly feared she had contracted a case of monkeypox in Africa.

She’d been in Uganda for several months, trying to adopt a special needs boy and girl, she said.

During a layover in Detroit on her flight home Thursday, she called her mom and complained that she’d been bitten by bed bugs in her Ugandan hotel, she said. But when Sievers went on to describe pustules that she’d seen on the body of the little boy she’d hoped to adopt, her mom “got confused” and believed that Sievers herself was seriously ill with pus-filled lesions.

Believing Sievers to be potentially contagious, Siever’s mom called her local hospital in La Porte, Ind., and asked for advice.

While the plane was en route from Detroit to Chicago, the La Porte Hospital in turn called the Centers for Disease Control, which held the plane on the Midway runway while officials investigated.

“It’s just a case of bedbugs,” Sievers said after she and other passengers were eventually released at 6 p.m., a couple hours after the plane landed. “I think I’m going to empty a jar of bedbugs on my mom’s bed tonight.”

In a statement, the CDC confirmed Siever’s account, saying that Chicago emergency workers checked her out and “it does not appear that the signs and symptoms are consistent with a monkeypox infection.”

Sievers, who plans to return to Uganda to adopt the children later this year, said authorities were “just following protocol” and that they were “very nice about everything.”

She added that she was sitting near the bathroom on the plane and that all the other passengers were looking at her once it became clear she was the cause of the delay.

“You could see them thinking, ‘Is it safe to use the bathroom?’” she said.

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