Curacao readies for Scientolgy cruise ship carrying measles case

The Hague (AFP) –


The Dutch territory of Curacao said Saturday that to prevent any health risk it will check passengers before allowing them to disembark from a cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology that was quarantined after a measles case.

The Freewinds was reported to have left the Caribbean island of St. Lucia on Friday en route to Willemstad in Curacao, where it was expected around 1400 GMT, maritime tracking services said.

The Curacao government said in a statement that it would "take all necessary precautions to handle the case of measles on board of the Freewinds," including vaccinations.

"An investigation will also be done to determine who will be allowed to leave the ship without (posing) a threat to the population of Curacao," it said.

"It is imperative to make all efforts to prevent a spread of this disease internationally," it added.

A spokeswoman for St Lucia's health ministry confirmed that the ship had left the island.

The Church of Scientology says the 440-foot (134-meter) vessel is used for religious retreats and is normally based in Curacao.

The vessel had arrived in St Lucia from Curacao on Tuesday, when it was placed under quarantine by health authorities because of a measles patient, said to be a female crew member.

Resurgence of the once-eradicated, highly-contagious disease is linked to the growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified as a major global health threat.

There were about 300 people aboard the ship, according to Saint Lucia authorities, which said they provided 100 doses of measles vaccine at no cost.

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

Its teachings do not directly oppose vaccination, but followers consider illness a sign of personal failing and generally avoid medical interventions.