Hundreds of people were confirmed to be trapped on a cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology after a case of measles was reported.
The ship, named Freewinds, has been under quarantine since Tuesday morning (April 30) and is currently being detained in Saint Lucia.
It has now been reported 28 people are still on the ship as of May 12.
The island’s Ministry of Health reportedly ordered the quarantine, fearing residents may be exposed to the contagious disease if passengers leave the ship.
As reported by Buzzfeed News, the country’s chief medical officer, Dr Merlene Fredericks-James, confirmed Saint Lucia authorities learned about a case of measles on the ship on Tuesday morning.
In a video message later posted to YouTube, Fredericks-James said Saint Lucia ordered passengers and crew members to remain on the docked ship following discussions with other regional health authorities, because of the highly contagious nature of the disease.
The chief medical officer said:
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 this time, we made the decision to not allow anyone to disembark.
Although Fredericks-James did not name the ship, a Saint Lucia Coast Guard official later identified it to CNBC as the Freewinds cruise ship.
Health officials confirmed it was a female crew member who has the measles, and is currently in isolation on board the ship with other crew members and passengers being prevented from disembarking.
Saint Lucia officials are in ‘close communication’ with regional and international health agencies, such as the Pan American Health Organization and the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Fredericks-James said.
Measles is a highly contagious (but preventable) viral disease, which symptoms include a high fever, characteristic red rash, and bloodshot eyes – among other symptoms.
Routine vaccinations for children are key in reducing the number of deaths caused by measles. With people trusting vaccinations less due to misinformation, many are choosing not to vaccinate themselves or their children.
So much so that cases of measles around the world doubled last year, with the main cause being the failure to vaccinate.
Vaccine-preventable diseases include:
Here are 5 facts on vaccines you need to know pic.twitter.com/T5uZFZeLzT
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 18, 2019
Although no one has been allowed to leave, island officials said they do not have the authority to prevent the ship from leaving.
The 440ft ship is based in the Caribbean and often hosts high-ranking Scientologists, with the church website noting it is home to the highest level of Scientology spiritual counselling.
St Lucia Coast Guard spokesman Victor Theodore told NBC News that the quarantined ship is the same one listed on the church’s website.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).