St. Lucia quarantines apparent Scientology cruise ship due to measles case
A cruise ship that is reportedly owned by the Church of Scientology with some 300 people aboard has been quarantined after a case of the measles was discovered, authorities on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Lucia say.
An official with St. Lucia's Marine Police identified the ship as the Freewinds, a 440-foot ship that reportedly belongs to the Church of Scientology. An unidentified person who answered the phone at the church's media center said no one was immediately available for comment.
Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James, the island's chief medical officer, told The Associated Press the ship was still in port and no one had been allowed to disembark since its arrival.
"One infected person can easily infect others," she said in a public statement.
Fredericks-James said a doctor aboard the ship requested 100 doses of the measles vaccine, which St. Lucia is supplying for free. She also said surveillance is necessary because the incubation period ranges from 10 to 12 days before symptoms occur.
The ship is normally docked in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao and serves as a religious retreat, the church's website says.
According to an online tracking website, the Freewinds arrived in St. Lucia on Tuesday and was supposed to be at Dominica on Friday. It was unclear where the ship might go next as a result of the quarantine.
Fredericks-James said St. Lucia authorities were not holding the vessel. "The ship is free to leave our port anytime it wishes," she said.
St. Lucia authorities did not immediately provide an update on the female crew member who contracted measles. Symptoms include 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.
Measles has sickened more than 700 people in 22 U.S. states this year, with federal officials saying the resurgence is driven by misinformation about vaccines.
Associated Press reports contributed to this story.