May 2, 2019 / 8:10 PM / 7 months ago

Scientology cruise ship leaves St. Lucia after measles quarantine

(Reuters) - A cruise ship quarantined for a reported case of measles left the Caribbean island of St. Lucia late on Thursday after health officials provided 100 doses of vaccine to the ship, media reports said.

A 440-foot ship owned and operated by the Church of Scientology, SMV Freewinds, is docked under quarantine from a measles outbreak in port near Castries, St. Lucia, May 2, 2019. REUTERS/Micah George

The Church of Scientology cruise ship was confined in port this week by island health officials after the highly contagious disease was detected on board.

CNN reported the ship had left St. Lucia, and online ship traffic data showed that the vessel was underway and headed for the island of Curacao.

One case of measles had been confirmed on the ship docked in port near the capital of Castries since Tuesday, Dr. Merlene Frederick-James, St. Lucia’s chief medical officer, 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,” she said, noting the incubation period of measles is 10 to 12 days before symptoms appear.

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)

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 had been docked in port near Castries on Thursday. It was now at sea and expected to arrive at Curacao on Saturday.

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.”

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; additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Lisa Shumaker and Darren Schuettler

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