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28 to remain on Scientology ship in Curacao in measles scare

UPDATED: Sat., May 11, 2019

The Freewinds cruise ship is docked in the port of Willemstad, Curacao Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Dick Drayer / AP)
The Freewinds cruise ship is docked in the port of Willemstad, Curacao Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Dick Drayer / AP)
By Dick Drayer Associated Press

WILLEMSTAD, Curacao – Authorities in Curacao announced Saturday that 17 crew members and 11 passengers must stay aboard a ship owned by the Church of Scientology that is under quarantine following a confirmed case of measles.

Dr. Izzy Gerstenbluth said the group is required to stay on the 440-feet Freewinds ship until May 13 because they are still at risk of contracting measles after a female crew member contracted the disease.

He said the remaining crew members and passengers, totaling 318, are free to leave the ship.

“They are not a threat to anyone anymore, and they cannot become sick anymore,” he said.

Church officials have not returned messages seeking comment. According to the church’s website, the ship is the home of “a religious retreat ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counseling.”

The ship was previously quarantined in St. Lucia and arrived in its home port of Curacao a week ago. Authorities then took 277 blood samples from those who did not have proof of vaccination and sent them to the Netherlands.

Gerstenbluth said the female crew member who was infected had been in Europe and arrived April 17 in Curacao with cold symptoms. Authorities said she got tested for measles but had already left for St. Lucia by the time the results came back. Officials in Curacao then alerted the government of St. Lucia.

Symptoms include runny nose, fever and a red-spotted rash. Most people recover, but measles can lead to pneumonia, brain swelling and even death in some cases.

More than 700 people in 22 U.S. states have gotten measles this year, with federal officials saying the resurgence is driven by misinformation about vaccines.

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