Scientology cruise ship: Measles case on board leads to quarantine in St. Lucia

Measles found on cruise ship

San Juan, Puerto Rico — Authorities in the eastern Caribbean island of St. Lucia have quarantined a cruise ship after discovering a confirmed case of measles aboard. Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James, the island’s chief medical officer, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the ship is still in port and that no one has been allowed to leave it.

“One infected person can easily infect others,” she said in a public statement.

An official with St. Lucia’s Marine Police who declined to provide their name because they were not authorized to speak to the media identified the ship as Freewinds. Saint Lucia Coast Guard Sgt. Victor Theodore also told NBC News the ship’s name is Freewinds.

The 440-foot vessel reportedly belongs to the Church of Scientology. According to the church’s website, the ship, which is normally docked in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao, “is the home of the Flag Ship Service Organization (FSSO), a religious retreat ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counseling in the Scientology religion.”

An unidentified person who answered the phone at the church’s media center said no one was immediately available for comment.

St. Lucia authorities did not immediately provide an update on the person aboard who contracted measles. Measles is highly contagious and is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious, in fact, that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of people near them who are not immune will also become infected.

Symptoms of measles include runny nose, fever and a red-spotted rash. Most people recover, but measles can lead to serious complications including pneumonia, brain swelling and even death in some cases.

Measles has sickened more than 700 people in 22 U.S. states so far this year — the largest number of cases in 25 years. Federal officials saying the resurgence is largely driven by misinformation about vaccines; unvaccinated people are vulnerable to the spread of the virus when cases are brought back from overseas.

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