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Scientology cruise ship leaves St. Lucia after measles quarantine

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Scientology cruise ship leaves St. Lucia after measles quarantine
Having been placed under quarantine, the Freewinds has left St. Lucia and might be heading to its home port, Curacao. File photo by Mary-Austin & Scott from Echo Park, Los Angeles | 29 Palms / Wikimedia Commons

May 3 (UPI) -- The Church of Scientology cruise ship that was quarantined after a positive case of measles has left St. Lucia and now appears to be heading toward its home port in Curacao.

The 440-foot cruise was set to leave before midnight Thursday and ship trackers show it's on course for Curacao, an autonomous oil refining and tourist center that belongs to the Netherlands. It's expected to arrive early Saturday morning.

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The Freewinds cruise ship has 300 passengers and crew members on board who had been held on the ship since Monday in Port Castries, St. Lucia. The ship requested 100 doses of measles vaccines Thursday before it departed.

A female crew member tested positive for the highly contagious disease, prompting the quarantine.

RELATED St. Lucia quarantines cruise ship over measles case

"Continued surveillance is necessary as the incubation period for measles ranges from 10 to 12 days before symptoms in exposed persons occur," a statement from the St. Lucia Department of Health and Wellness said.

Tim Moody, former chairperson of Emerging Public Health Threats and Emergency Response Coalition, said someone who doesn't have a vaccine before must receive the vaccine within 72 hours of contracting the disease to prevent it. Still, the vaccine could reduce the severity of the measles even if it doesn't prevent it.

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Using quarantine to contain diseases is a sticky issue even though they are effective at slowing or stopping the spread of disease.

RELATED CDC: Measles cases in U.S. the most in 25 years

"But because it curtails civil liberties, most public health officials are very wary to utilize it," Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University, told CNN.

Measles is highly contagious and can spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes or has direct contact with germs on a surface. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a rash with red spots.

The Church of Scientology describes the ship as a floating "religious retreat ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counseling in the Scientology religion."

RELATED LA universities quarantine students, staff over measles outbreak

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