Scientology Cruise Ship Heads To Curaçao After St. Lucia Quarantines It For Measles

May 3, 2019
Originally published on May 3, 2019 6:29 pm

The cruise ship that was placed under quarantine by St. Lucia because of a confirmed case of measles onboard is bound for Curaçao. It's not clear what will happen when the vessel, called the Freewinds, arrives there.

The Church of Scientology operates the ship and calls Curaçao its home port. Nearly 300 passengers and crew are onboard, NBC News reports.

A tracking map on MarineTraffic.com shows the vessel left the port city of Castries on St. Lucia Thursday night and is due to arrive at Willemstad, Curaçao, on Saturday morning.

Health authorities in St. Lucia made the decision to quarantine the Freewinds after a female crew member was confirmed to have measles. There was concern that others onboard might have been infected and that measles could spread to the Caribbean island, which has been free of local transmission of the disease since 1990. St. Lucia's Ministry of Health and Wellness said on Thursday it had provided 100 doses of measles vaccine to people on the ship.

The disease is extremely contagious. An unvaccinated person can catch it simply by being in the same room an infected person was in, for up to two hours after the infected person left.

In its most recent update, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed more than 700 individual cases of measles in the U.S. so far this year. New York has been one epicenter of the outbreak, where there have been 493 cases this year.

On its website, the Church of Scientology explains that for a Scientologist, boarding the Freewinds is "the pinnacle of a deeply spiritual journey."

As we reported Thursday, the Church of Scientology says its members rely on the advice and treatment of medical doctors, but several high-profile Scientologists have spoken out against vaccination.

Curaçao's vaccination rate is 97% in children born since 2007, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.