Thursday 17 October 2019

Scientology ship to remain under quarantine in Curacao amid measles alert

The 440ft Freewinds was previously quarantined in St Lucia after a crew member was diagnosed with measles.

(AP Photo/Bradley Lacan)
(AP Photo/Bradley Lacan)

By Dick Drayer, Associated Press

Authorities in Curacao say 318 people aboard a Church of Scientology ship docked in the Dutch Caribbean island will remain quarantined at least until Wednesday while they determine how many might be infected with measles.

Dr Izzy Gerstenbluth said a team of health officials had taken 277 blood samples and sent them to the Netherlands.

He said he expects results on Tuesday or Wednesday, adding that the atmosphere on the boat is good and everyone is co-operating.

Dr Gerstenbluth said 31 crew members and 10 passengers provided a vaccination certificate, and the remainder were vaccinated. “But that is for the future, it will not help them now,” he added.

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The Freewinds cruise ship in St Lucia (/Bradley Lacan/AP)

The 440ft Freewinds ship had previously been quarantined in St Lucia after a crew member was diagnosed with measles.

Authorities said she arrived in Curacao on April 17 and visited a doctor on April 22 for cold symptoms.

A blood sample was taken and sent to nearby Aruba, where officials confirmed it was measles on April 29, a day after the ship had departed for St Lucia. Curacao health officials then alerted authorities in St Lucia.

The former cruise ship returned to its home port of Curacao early on Saturday.

Dr Gerstenbluth said the decision to release passengers and crew members will be made after consulting health officials in the Netherlands and the Pan American Health Organisation.

Measles has affected more than 700 people in 22 US states this year, with federal officials saying the resurgence is driven by misinformation about vaccines.

Symptoms include a runny nose, fever and a red-spotted rash. Most people recover but measles can lead to pneumonia, brain swelling and even death in some cases.

Church officials have not returned calls for comment. According to the church’s website, the ship is the home of “a religious retreat ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counselling”.

It says religious conventions and seminars are also held aboard.

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