St Lucia quarantines tourist ship over measles scare

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Merlene Fredericks-James

Health authorities have confirmed that a tourist ship had been quarantined here earlier this week over fears that at least one of the passengers on board had contracted measles.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Merlene Fredericks-James, confirmed that the authorities had received “information …from two reputable sources that there was a confirmed case of measles on a cruise ship which visited our island”.

She did not name the cruise ship or where it had visited prior to arriving, but added that the authorities here had acted under the Quarantine Act, the Public Health Act in deciding on the measure to prevent people from leaving the cruise ship.

She said discussions had also been held with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and other external agencies.

“We thought it prudent that we quarantine the ship. So no one was allowed to leave the ship. The crew and passengers on board were not allowed to leave.

“Measles we know is a highly infectious disease. I am sure persons have been listening to the Ministry in terms of the sensitise programme we have been doing. We have been listening to the alerts from the Pan American Health Organisation and persons…would also be aware of the current situation taking place in the United States right now.

She said the outbreak of measles in the United States is due “largely because persons have not been taking the vaccines, because there is a vaccine that protects people. So as a result of the potential risk, because one infected person can easily infect others…not only from the confined measles case but from other persons who may be on the boat at the time we thought it prudent not to allow anyone to disembark,” she added.

She said the authorities are working together “and we would also like to remind our population that there is a situation going on right now in the region.

“We know many of us travel to and from the United States, we have visitors from there and other parts of the world …that maybe having an issue and persons should ensure they are properly vaccinated against measles,” she added.

Media reports here said that the ship is due to leave here on Thursday.