With the winter cruise season opening here in Saint Lucia soon, the threat to this sector from any case of Ebola and the impact it may have is a real concern. This week marine, yachting and cruise officials met here to discuss the island’s state of preparedness as Saint Lucia gears up for not just another cruise season but also the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers.
Speaking at the meeting Thursday, maritime consultant in the Ministry of Tourism, Cuthbert Didier said that all the necessary protocols must be in place ahead of these events. “We must also share timely information and have a free-flow of communication without necessarily engaging in any blind panic,” Didier said.
But for a number of taxi drivers the concerns are indeed real and also scary. “I am not sure how prepared we are and as far as this winter cruise season goes I am adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to decide if I will indeed be working,” one concerned taxi driver told the STAR this week.
A report in the UK Daily Mail on Friday about a possible Ebola scare on a Caribbean cruise ship is also causing some distress among the sector. According to the Mail a Dallas healthcare worker who handled a lab specimen from a Liberian man who died from Ebola is self-quarantined on a Caribbean cruise ship and is being monitored for infection. This was confirmed by the White House.
The woman is said to be an employee of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and had shown no signs of the disease and has been asymptomatic for 19 days, an Obama administration spokesman said. According to the State department the government is working to return the woman and her husband to the U.S. before the ship, the Carnival Magic, completes its cruise.
One official said it’s believed the woman poses no risk but healthcare authorities want to get her off the cruise ship and back to the U.S. out of an abundance of caution. US State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said the worker joined the cruise ship with a companion in Galveston, Texas on October 12. There have been no restrictions placed on other passengers aboard the ship.
A statement from Carnival Cruise Lines said 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 cruise ship is carrying more than 4,600 passengers and crew. Caribbean countries on the Gulf of Mexico cruise circuit have been among the first to close their borders to travelers from Ebola hotspots, with four nations laying down bans.
Jamaica has joined Colombia, Guyana and Saint Lucia as countries denying entry to travelers who recently visited the Ebola-affected nations.
Jamaica’s travel ban extends to ‘persons ordinarily resident in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as persons who have traveled to or transited through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, within 28 days of having departed from these countries,’ the government said.
Ebola is spread through close contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids such as blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen. Those fluids must have an entry point, like a cut or scrape or someone touching the nose, mouth or eyes with contaminated hands, or being splashed. For this reason healthcare workers wear protective gloves, full-body suits and masks.
The World Health Organization says blood, feces and vomit are the most infectious fluids, while the virus is found in saliva mostly once patients are severely ill and the whole live virus has never been culled from sweat.