May 2, 2019 / 8:05 PM / 2 months ago

Scientology cruise ship quarantined in St. Lucia gets measles vaccine

May 2 (Reuters) - Health officials for the Caribbean island of St. Lucia furnished 100 free doses of measles vaccine to a Church of Scientology cruise ship placed under quarantine in port after the highly contagious disease was diagnosed on board, the island’s chief medical officer said on Thursday.

St. Lucia health officials have confirmed one case of measles aboard the ship that has been docked in a port near the island nation’s capital Castries since Tuesday, Dr. Merlene Frederick-James said in a video statement.

“The confirmed case as well as other crew members are presently stable but remain under surveillance by the ship’s doctor,” Frederick-James said, noting the incubation period of measles is 10 to 12 days before symptoms appear.

The St. Lucia Ministry of Health ordered the ship to be quarantined on Tuesday. The restriction comes as the number of measles cases in the United States has reached a 25-year peak with more than 700 people diagnosed as of this week, part of an international resurgence in the disease. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2GJgoBt)

Frederick-James said the doses of measles vaccines were being supplied to the ship free of charge.

She gave no information about the ship or its origins.

NBC News, citing a St. Lucia Coast Guard sergeant, reported the ship is named Freewinds, which is the name of a 440-foot vessel owned and operated by the Church of Scientology.

According to Reuters Eikon shipping data, a Panamanian-flagged cruise liner identified as SMV Freewinds was docked in port near Castries on Thursday. The ship was headed next to the island of Dominica, the data showed.

On its website, the Church of Scientology describes the Freewinds as a floating “religious retreat ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counseling in the Scientology religion.” It says the vessel’s home port is Curacao.

Church officials did not respond to requests for comment.

NBC News reported that nearly 300 passengers and crew were aboard the vessel, with one female crew member diagnosed with measles.

Public health officials blame declining vaccination rates in some communities driven by misinformation about inoculation that has left those populations vulnerable to rapid spread of infection among those with no immunity to the virus.

The vast majority of U.S. cases have occurred in children who have not received vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), officials said.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker

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