updated 3/26/2007 7:41:23 PM ET 2007-03-26T23:41:23

Passengers on a flight from Hong Kong were allowed to get off a plane at Newark Liberty International Airport Monday afternoon after being held for two hours because some passengers reported feeling ill, officials said.

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The Continental flight arrived in New Jersey at 2 p.m. EDT, and passengers disembarked about 4 p.m. after officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowed them off, said Marc La Vorgna, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport.

Continental Flight 98 departed Hong Kong with 272 passengers.

During the flight, the cabin crew noticed that several passengers appeared ill, and airline officials notified health authorities in the U.S., said Dave Messing, a spokesman for Houston-based Continental Airlines.

CDC spokeswoman Karen Hunter said seven passengers boarded the plane with flu-like symptoms and during the 15-hour flight, other passengers began to exhibit the symptoms as well. She did not have an exact number.

Emergency services personnel who were sent to the plane to interview the passengers about their symptoms passed on the information to a CDC Global Migration and Quarantine representative at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Hunter said.

"It was determined the symptoms were consistent with possible seasonal influenza and there was no reason to believe it was more serious," said CDC spokesman Glen Nowak. Nowak said the seven passengers who boarded the plane already sick had visited a hospital outpatient center and were diagnosed with the flu, but it wasn't clear whether that visit took place in Hong Kong or the U.S.

The airline and the CDC believe the ill passengers were part of a group of more than 80 tourists who sailed together on a river cruise in Asia.

The final destination of the group, after switching planes in Newark, is Montreal, Canada. Messing said he believed most of the group would continue on to Montreal Monday night.

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