Ebola scare on the high seas: Mexico and Belize close ports to cruise ship carrying health worker who handled samples from ‘patient zero’ who died of virus
- The female passenger works at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas
- Took a trip on the Carnival Magic trip – due to stop in Belize and Mexico
- She handled clinical samples from Duncan – who died of Ebola on October 8
- The woman, who is with her husband, had no symptoms but went into voluntary isolation
- Hospital has now issued tighter guidelines to stop staff traveling
- Belize is refusing to let the passenger ashore because of Ebola fears
- The ship will be skipping its final stop in Cozumel, Mexico, Friday and will return to Texas on Sunday
A cruise ship which launched from Texas has been barred from entering Belize and Mexico because it may be carrying an Ebola victim.
The ship is carrying a health worker from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas – the epicenter of the Ebola crisis, where the first patient to die of the disease in America was treated.
The woman – who is now in voluntary isolation to protect fellow passengers – had handled samples from Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of the virulent disease on October 8.
Officials had wanted to move her off the ship so she could fly home. But the governments of Belize and Mexico both denied permission for the ship to dock in order to protect its own citizens.
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A female healthcare worker from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is reportedly quarantined on board Carnival Cruise ship Magic (pictured) in the Caribbean over an Ebola scare
Tourists enjoy a ride on a catamaran as cruise ship Carnival Magic is seen near the shores of Cozumel October 17
The health worker has so far not shown any signs of the disease since she handled the material 19 days ago, the White House said.
Ebola’s incubation period is two to 21 days. In the wake of the scare on the seas, Texas Health Presbyterian shared news guidelines it had issued limiting staff’s travel.
From now on workers will not be permitted to board planes, ships or trains for 21 days after entering a room with an infected patient.
The New York Post, which reported the memo, said that enhanced monitoring will also be put into place, and staff can volunteer to be taken into care at the hospital if they want.
The government is working to return the woman and her husband to the US before the ship, the Carnival Magic, completes its cruise. The State Department was working to secure their transportation home.
On board: Passengers on the Carnival Magic, pictured, have been separated from the health worker, who put herself in voluntary isolation
Keeping on: Vacations continued for passengers aboard the ship, who were given a $200 credit to their on-board accounts, but had to miss out on a stop in Mexico
An administration official said the cruise ship had stopped in Belize but officials there would not allow the passenger to leave the vessel so she could be flown home.
On Friday morning, passengers aboard the ship learned that they will not be making a planned stop in Cozumel, Mexico, due to ‘a situation beyond the cruise ship’s control.’
The captain of the Carnival vessel made the announcement at around 10am saying that they are being forced to skip the final port on the itinerary and return to Galveston, Texas, Sunday.
‘We greatly regret that this situation, which was completely beyond our control, precluded the ship from making its scheduled visit to Cozumel and the resulting disappointment it has caused our guests,’ the Carnival Cruise line said in a statement to Miami Herald.
A Mexican port authority official said the ship was denied clearance to avoid any possible risk from Ebola.
‘It is the first time that this has happened, and it was decided the ship should not dock as a preventative measure against Ebola,’ Erce Barron, port authority director in Quintana Roo, told Reuters
The company is offering passengers a credit of $200 each to their shipboard account and a 50 per cent discount toward a future trip.
Explanation: This note was handed out to passengers explaining how the spat with Belize meant the woman could not be taken off the ship
The ship skipped a planned stop in Cozumel, Mexico, on Friday because of delays getting permission to dock from Mexican authorities over Ebola scare
A government official said that when the Texas lab worker left the US on the cruise ship from Galveston October 12, health officials were requiring only self-monitoring.
One official said it’s believed the woman poses no risk but health-care authorities want to get her off the cruise ship and back to the US out of an abundance of caution.
There have been no restrictions placed on other passengers aboard the ship.
Images from aboard the stricken vessel were published by The Denver Channel.
Carnival Cruise Lines said in a statement that the woman, a lab supervisor, remained in isolation ‘and is not deemed to be a risk to any guests or crew’.
‘We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board,’ the statement said.
The worker is being monitored for any signs of infection by the ship’s doctor