- A cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology has been quarantined off the coast of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia after health officials learned of a measles case on board.
- The coast guard named the ship as the “Freewinds,” the name of a vessel owned and operated by the Church of Scientology in the Caribbean.
- The church says it uses the ship as “a religious retreat” and for “the most advanced level of spiritual counseling.”
- As measles is spread through the air and is highly contagious, officials said they felt it was “prudent” to stop people from getting off the ship.
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A cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology has been quarantined off a Caribbean island after officials learned of a measles case on board.
The ship, carrying 300 passengers, was ordered to stay in St Lucia’s port and passengers were ordered to stay on board, Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James, the chief medical officer of St. Lucia, said in a statement, NBC News reported.
Fredericks-James said that the ship’s doctor confirmed a female passenger had the highly infectious virus and that it was “likely that other persons on the boat may have been exposed.”
She said officials “thought it prudent that we quarantine the ship.”
Victor Theodore, a St. Lucia Coast Guard sergeant, told NBC News that the ship is named Freewinds, which is the name of a ship the Church of Scientology operates in the Caribbean.
The vessel is advertised on the Church of Scientology’s website as a “440-foot ship based in the Caribbean.” Cruises operated on the boat are described as “a religious retreat ministering the most advanced level of spiritual counseling in the Scientology religion.”
It described boarding the ship as “the pinnacle of a deeply spiritual journey” for Scientologists.
“It is the one place a Scientologist may go and be certain he will be able to devote himself entirely to his religious practice and in the company of people who share his religious commitment and outlook on life in general.”
Ship tracking website MarineTraffic says that a ship named the Freewinds that is the same size as the church’s ship is currently moored in St Lucia’s port. Images of the ship on the website show the same ship as ones shared by the church.
INSIDER has contacted the Church of Scientology for comment.
Fredericks-James said that no one is allowed to disembark the ship, but that St. Lucian officials would not stop the ship from leaving the island’s port, NBC News reported.
Measles cases are rapidly increasing
The measles virus is one of the most contagious, and a growing anti-vaccination movement has led to a surge of cases in the US and around the world.
The Church of Scientology told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016 that it “takes no position one way or the other” on vaccinations, and the church does advocate for the use of prescribed medical drugs to treat illnesses.
The World Health Organization reported in April that measles cases rose by 300% globally in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same time in 2018.
The US Centers for Disease Control said in mid-April that 555 had already gotten sick from the virus so far in 2019.
There is no treatment for measles, though doctors can work to reduce the symptoms, which include a high fever, rashes, and coughing. It can be deadly in some cases — around one in 1,000 people who get the virus develop brain swelling that can be fata l.
The virus’ symptoms do not manifest immediately and it spreads through the air. It can remain infectious up to two hours after a person with it coughs or sneezes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People who have been vaccinated can still get measles, and people who are unable to get vaccinated are put at increased risk as vaccination rates drop.