TikTok User Says Flight Attendants Mistook Their Eczema for Monkeypox

  • A TikToker says they were escorted off a Spirit flight after their eczema was mistaken for monkeypox.
  • Jacqueline Nguyen said they were asked to show medical proof that it was eczema.
  • Nguyen said they were able to reboard the flight but felt humiliated and ashamed.

A TikToker told Insider that they believe they were escorted off a Spirit Airlines flight after their eczema was mistaken for monkeypox, the viral disease that was recently declared a public health emergency in the US.

Jacqueline Nguyen, who goes by @jacqueline.ngu on TikTok, shared a video recounting their experience of being ushered off a flight in Los Angeles, California. Nguyen posted the video on August 5, which has 1.8 million views as of the time of writing.

“They had me get off the plane in front of everyone along with my wife to interrogate me about the eczema I’ve had my whole life,” the onscreen text reads behind a video of the Nguyen. “They asked me to provide medical documents and told my wife to watch her attitude. I’ve never been so humiliated in my life.”

In a pinned comment, Nguyen tagged Spirit Airlines and wrote “Spirit Airlines maybe teach your employees what monkeypox looks like before you catch hundreds of medical discrimination cases.”

Spirit Airlines did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Since the original video was posted, Nguyen spoke to Insider and shared an update on TikTok, where they said that they were able to board the flight again after showing a tube of eczema cream.

The TikToker said they felt humiliated and ashamed

A screenshot of @jacqueline.ngu's TikTok video.

A screenshot of @jacqueline.ngu’s TikTok video.


Nguyen detailed the experience to Insider, which took place on August 2. Nguyen said that they and their wife, who is a flight attendant for Spirit, were flying standby and seated on a Spirit flight heading to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport when a complaint resolved official boarded the flight and escorted the pair off the plane and onto the jet bridge.

Nguyen said the complaint resolution official said they were alerted by a flight attendant about Nguyen’s rash.

“I think the exact thing they asked was ‘How long have you had that rash?’ or ‘I need to ask you about that rash,'” Nguyen recalled, adding that they didn’t specifically mention monkeypox.

“I realized what was happening and what they thought,” Nguyen said. “I tried to explain that this was just my eczema. That I’ve had it my whole life. That it’s not contagious.”

Nguyen immediately started crying. The Spirit official asked them to provide medical documentation of their eczema, which Nguyen said they didn’t have. The only thing they had was a tube of eczema cream.

Nguyen and their wife were able to reboard the plane and said they remember thinking, “oh my god, everybody here thinks that I’m diseased … It was so humiliating.”

Nguyen said they posted on TikTok with the aim of bringing awareness to how some people with physical skin conditions are being treated during the monkeypox outbreak.

Nguyen said Spirit Airlines has not reached out to them about the incident, and a day after posting their video on TikTok, their wife was released from her position. Nguyen declined to comment on whether they will take any legal action.

“I want to say that I understand there being precautions, but when these precautions are based in ignorance, it turns to prejudice,” Nguyen said.

Monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency

Labeled tubes test "Monkeypox virus positive" are seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022.

Test tubes labeled “Monkeypox virus positive” are seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

On August 4, the White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency. The virus is primarily spread through skin-to-skin contact, and according to data from the CDC at the time of writing, there have been 10,392 confirmed monkeypox cases in the US since the first monkeypox case in the country was diagnosed this year in mid -May.

Monkeypox has a wide variety of symptoms and signs, which has made the disease hard to diagnose and report. Insider previously shared guides on how monkeypox spreads and how to tell the difference between monkeypox and other skin conditions.

Insider recently reported on a woman whose benign skin tumors were mistaken for monkeypox in a TikTok video that was filmed without her consent, and comments on Nguyen’s TikTok video shared that they were fearful of something similar happening to them.

“As an adult with cystic acne I have been scared, I’ve been trying so hard to cover up out of fear. Sorry this had to happen to you,” one TikToker wrote.

Another person commented, “people used to bully me thinking my eczema was contagious and I’m terrified it’s gonna happen again.”

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