Cruise ship in Carribean is carrying ‘self-quarantined’ Texas Ebola health worker

Updated: The State Department confirmed this morning that a health worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from the man who died of Ebola in Texas is on board a cruise ship apparently in the Caribbean. The employee, who has demonstrated no symptoms of Ebola, is “self-monitoring,” according to a State Department spokeswoman.

Neither the statement or a similar AP report quoting unnamed White House officials said where exactly the ship was or which cruise line was operating it, except that it departed from Galveston on Oct. 12. However, news reports out of Belize said the Carnival Cruise ship “Magic” was being kept offshore because of a health worker who had contact with an Ebola patient and that passengers were not being permitted into the country.

The reports quoted a statement from the government of Belize: The Government of Belize was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola. The passenger had voluntarily entered quarantine on board the ship and remains free of any fever or other symptoms of illness. The Ebola virus may only be spread by patients who are experiencing fever and symptoms of illness and so the US Government had emphasized the very low risk category in this case. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.

The GOB reassures the public that the passenger never set foot in Belize and while we remain in close contact with US officials we have maintained the position that when even the smallest doubt remains, we will ensure the health and safety of the Belizean people. The Prime Minister has called a press conference tomorrow morning to further address any concerns that may arise from this event.

According to the State Department, “As part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s detailed contact trace investigation conducted in response to the first Ebola case in Dallas, it was discovered that an employee of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital had departed the United States via a commercial cruise ship on October 12 from Galveston, Texas. The employee did not have direct contact with the since deceased Ebola patient, but may have had contact with clinical specimens collected from him. The individual was out of the country before being notified of CDC’s updated requirements for active monitoring. At the time the hospital employee left the country, CDC was requiring only self-monitoring.”

“The employee has been self-monitoring, including daily temperature checks, since October 6, and has not had a fever or demonstrated any symptoms of illness. It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed the since deceased patient’s fluid samples. The cruise line has actively supported CDC’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health. Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin. We are working with the cruise line to safely bring them back to the United States out of an abundance of caution.”

In a written statement to a congressional committee Thursday, Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer at the Dallas’ Texas Health Resources hospital, said: “Today, every person at Texas Health Dallas who has had contact with a known Ebola patient is under active monitoring for 21 days after their last contact with the patient.”

It was uncertain this morning whether the woman had actual contact with Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, who died at the hospital on Oct. 8 what sort of lab specimen she handled and what, if any, protective gear she was wearing. The Ebola virus is transmitted through bodily fluids.

The following two tabs change content below.
Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.