Measles had been declared eliminated in the United States nearly 20 years ago, but the deadly infectious disease has made a troubling comeback, with numerous public health emergencies declared as a result of measles across the country. There has also been an increase in infections worldwide. And now, an outbreak has occurred on a cruise ship reportedly owned by the Church of Scientology, requiring the boat to be docked and passengers to be quarantined aboard in St. Lucia, according to USA Today.
On Wednesday, health officials said that the cruise ship – carrying 300 passengers and crew members – has been quarantined at the port of St. Lucia in the Caribbean because of a confirmed case of measles. A female crew member had been determined to have contracted measles, and the passengers and crew were ordered on Monday to not leave the ship. The crew member in question is said to be in stable condition.
NBC News confirmed that the quarantined boat is a 440-foot cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology, named “Freewinds.” Per NBC News, Sgt. Victor Theodore of the St. Lucia Coast Guard said the quarantined ship is the same that was listed on Scientology’s website. The church’s website states that the ship is based in the Caribbean, with a port in Curaçao, and that the vessel “provides a safe, aesthetic, distraction-free environment appropriate for ministration of this profoundly spiritual level of auditing.”
Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James, the chief medical officer for St. Lucia, said in a YouTube video on Wednesday, per USA Today, “Because of the risk of the potential infection, not just from the confirmed measles case, but from other persons who may be on the boat at the time, we thought it prudent to make a decision not to let anyone disembark.”
However, according to NBC News, while officials can stop passengers from disembarking, they cannot stop the ship from leaving. At the moment, the ship is currently scheduled to leave St. Lucia late Thursday night.