Crew and passengers aboard a cruise ship in St. Lucia have been quarantined after a measles case was reported among travelers.
Nearly 300 people are aboard the ship, which is docked in the St. Lucia port.
Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James, St. Lucia’s chief medical officer, made a statement on Tuesday that the country had made the decision to quarantine the ship after internal and external discussions with health authorities like the Pan American Health Organization.
She explained her decision by pointing to the highly infectious nature of measles, referencing the current outbreak in the United States, and reinforcing that there exists an effective vaccine that protects against this disease.
“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 make a decision not to allow anyone to disembark,” she said in a statement.
Because measles is so contagious, the impact it can have on tight-knit communities can be disastrous, as demonstrated by the current outbreaks in the Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn, where most of the NYC cases have been reported.
Misinformation about the the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine also adds fuel to the fire as parents become afraid of vaccinating their children, which furthers the cycle of transmission.
The ship in St. Lucia is reportedly called “Freewinds” and is owned and operated by the Church of Scientology.
The church does not take a specific viewpoint on vaccines, but its website indicates its followers use prescription medications and visit doctors.
Measles is infectious enough without the complication of people being grouped together in closed spaces. On April 25, a woman with measles went to a movie theater in Orange County to see Avengers: Endgame, putting a huge crowd at risk of contracting the disease. Schools continue to be susceptible to outbreaks, as sick children can spread measles quickly among classmates.
The MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way to stop the transmission of the measles, which was eliminated from the US in 2000.
The crewmember with measles is being quarantined on the ship. This is currently the only reported case, but there is concern that other people onboard may have been exposed, which is especially concerning for those who have not been vaccinated.