WORLD NEWS

Scientology Church's Cruise Ship Quarantined In St. Lucia Over Confirmed Measles Case

Passengers and crew were not allowed to leave the ship during the quarantine because of the possibility of spreading the highly contagious disease.

Nearly 300 people are being quarantined on a cruise ship at the St. Lucia port in the Caribbean after a crew member was confirmed to have measles.

Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James, St. Lucia’s chief medical officer, confirmed the quarantine on Tuesday in a filmed statement but did not reveal the name of the cruise ship. Neither crew members nor passengers were allowed to leave the ship during the quarantine.

The infected person is a female crew member, NBC News reported.

The St. Lucia Marine Police said on Thursday that the confirmed measles case was found on Freewinds, a cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology, according to ABC News.

“One infected person can easily infect others through coughing, sneezing, droplets being on different surfaces, etc.,” Fredericks-James said in the statement. “Because of the risk of 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 not let anyone on the boat disembark.”

Fredericks-James told NBC News on Tuesday that it is likely that other people may have been exposed to the measles on the boat.

On Thursday, the Freewinds’ ship doctor requested 100 doses of the measles vaccine from St. Lucia’s government, the country’s ministry of health said in a statement. The department of health and wellness will be providing the ship with the vaccines “at no cost.”

The Church of Scientology operates the Freewinds, based in the Caribbean, where it holds religious retreats “ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counseling in the Scientology religion,” according to the church’s website. HuffPost has reached out to the church for comment.

Though the Church of Scientology opposes psychiatry, its website says members seek “conventional medical treatment for illnesses” and “rely on the advice and treatment of physicians.”

Several high-profile Scientologists have spoken out against vaccines, including actresses Juliette Lewis and Kirstie Alley. The Church has no official rules on vaccines, but its members are “pretty independent people” and “tend to do a little more research” on medical procedures, a Scientology leader told BeliefNet.

In an interview with St. Lucia News Online, the country’s acting National Epidemiologist Dr. Michelle Francois said that the island has been free of any locally-transmitted cases of measles since 1990. 

Speaking to the press on Monday, Fredericks-James noted the recent measles outbreak in the U.S. that has hit 22 states.

This is “largely because persons have not been taking the vaccine because there is a vaccine that protects the person from getting measles,” she said.

The number of measles cases in the U.S. has hit a new high with a total of 704 cases as of this April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week.

Hayley Miller contributed reporting.

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