St Lucia quarantines cruise ship owned by Church of Scientology over confirmed measles case on board
Health officials in St. Lucia ordered a cruise ship belonging to the church of Scientology to stay put in port after sources confirmed to them that someone on board had measles.
According to the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James, an internal discussion and talk with the Pan American Health Organization resulted in them making the choice to quarantine the cruise ship. James shared, "We thought it prudent that we quarantine the ship." She added that one person with measles could very easily infect others through coughing and sneezing.
James further added that she had learned of the onboard measles case through two reputable sources. St. Lucia Coast Guard Sgt. Victor Theodore shared with NBC news that the ship named "Freewinds" was still at the port. On Wednesday, St. Lucia Times shared an image of the ship and many marine tracking sites show the ship at the port.
On its website, the Church of Scientology said that the ship is a religious retreat and is the climax of a Scientologist spiritual journey. James added that no one was allowed to get off the ship. Rebecca Katz, who is the directs the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University shared that using quarantines to help control an outbreak is uncomfortable and inconvenient but is an important public health option.
Katz said, "Quarantine is a word that people respond to very strongly, but it's actually one of the strongest tools in the public health tool kit. But because it curtails civil liberties, most public health officials are very wary to utilize it."
All states have laws in place which allow for quarantines as well as other public health enforcement tools. For those who do not cooperate the consequences of the actions can range from issuing a self-isolation to "checking in once a day via the internet, to putting a tracking device on somebody, to placing an armed guard outside of their home," Katz added.
"Sometimes people feel like they're being treated like a criminal. The point is to be treated like you're doing something that is contributing to your society and only be treated as a criminal if you disobey," Katz continued.
James shared that health officials were using the authority given to them by the nation's quarantine act and public health act. Measles is a highly contagious disease which is caused by a virus that spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a rash of red spots. Currently, measles cases in the United States have peaked since the disease was declared as eliminated in 2000.