Scientology cruise ship quarantined for measles case heading to Curacao

/ CBS/AP

Passengers quarantined on cruise ship are "stable"

Authorities in Curacao debated on Friday how to respond to a ship with 300 people aboard that is heading to the Dutch Caribbean island after being placed under quarantine in nearby St. Lucia because of a confirmed case of measles. The ship left St. Lucia late Thursday after spending two days under quarantine.

Authorities there said the ship's doctor requested 100 vaccines after a female crew member was diagnosed with measles. It is unclear whether she remains in St. Lucia. Health officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 440-foot Freewinds ship is reportedly owned by the Church of Scientology. Church officials have not returned messages for comment. The ship is scheduled to arrive early Saturday in Curacao, where it is normally docked when not in use.

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Curacao epidemiologist Dr. Izzy Gerstenbluth said the female crew member arrived April 17 in Curacao from Europe and visited a doctor 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.

It was unclear what the crew member was doing in Europe. Officials urged anyone who visited the ship from April 22-28 to get a medical checkup.

Measles is highly contagious and is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious, in fact, that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of people near them who are not immune will also become infected.

Symptoms of measles include a high fever, runny nose, and a red-spotted rash. Most people recover, but measles can lead to serious complications including pneumonia, brain swelling and even death in some cases. "The disease can be particularly severe in young children who are not immunized," Fredericks-James noted.

Measles has sickened more than 700 people in 22 U.S. states so far this year — the largest number of cases in 25 years. Federal officials saying the resurgence is largely driven by misinformation about vaccines; unvaccinated people are vulnerable to the spread of the virus when cases are brought back from overseas.

In Fullerton, California, hundreds of movie goers at a showing of "Avengers: Endgame" were told they may've been exposed to measles last week by a woman who was infectious.

First published on May 3, 2019 / 3:01 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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