Officials begin vaccinating Scientology ship passengers amid measles outbreak

Officials begin vaccinating Scientology ship passengers amid measles outbreak

A 440-foot ship owned and operated by the Church of Scientology, SMV Freewinds, is docked under quarantine from a measles outbreak in port near Castries, St. Lucia on May 2, 2019.

Authorities in Curacao debated on Friday how to respond to a ship with 300 people aboard that is heading to the Dutch Caribbean island after being placed under quarantine in nearby St. Lucia because of a confirmed case of measles.

Health officials said they will board the ship when it arrives early Saturday and assess who has been vaccinated or had the disease previously.

On Thursday, the ship's doctor requested 100 doses of the measles vaccine, according to a statement from the St. Lucia Department of Health and Wellness, "and this is now being provided from our supplies, at no cost".

The church, founded by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in 1953, did not respond to requests for comment.

Gerstenbluth said the infected crew member had travelled to Europe and rejoined the ship on April 17, then reported feeling ill on April 22. The ship can leave St. Lucia if it chooses to, she said.

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Hence, "we need to make sure that every person living in Belize is up-to-date with their Measles vaccination", she advised. Anyone who's infected can still be contagious for four days before and after a rash appears, experts say.

The Church of Scientology operates the ship and calls Curacao its home port.

The vast majority of US cases have occurred in children who have not received vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), officials said.

The church, on its website, describes Freewinds as a floating "religious retreat ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counselling in the Scientology religion". Symptoms include runny nose, fever and a red-spotted rash. They said proof is required, and that people who do not comply will be vaccinated immediately. Most people recover, but measles can lead to pneumonia, brain swelling and even death in some cases.

Some of them triggered USA outbreaks, mostly among non-vaccinated people. "Continued surveillance is necessary as the incubation period for measles ranges from 10 to 12 days before symptoms in exposed persons occur", the statement added.

Dr Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society told MailOnline: 'Measles can be very serious.

Measles can be prevented by receiving two vaccinations, the first at 13 months old and the second at three years and four months to five years old.

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