Friday, October 17, 2014

 

Cruise Ship Stranded In Passenger Ebola Scare

A passenger on a US cruise ship in the Caribbean has been quarantined after it was thought he or she handled ebola specimens.

The US State Department said the Dallas health worker may have been exposed to specimens from the first patient diagnosed with ebola in the US.

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital worker did not have direct contact with now deceased Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan and was showing no symptoms of the disease, according to US officials.

But the unnamed staff member could have processed Mr Duncan's bodily fluids 19 days ago, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

She did not specify the location or operator of the ship, but media in the Central American nation of Belize said its government was keeping the cruise ship offshore.

In a statement, the Belize government said that "out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a US request for assistance in evacuating the passenger" via a coastal airport.

Belize news reports identified the ship as the Carnival Magic.

The employee left on a cruise from Galveston, Texas, on Sunday, before federal health officials updated requirements for active monitoring of anyone exposed to the virus.

The worker has remained isolated in a cabin with a travelling partner since 6 October, self-monitoring with daily temperature checks, but has not reported a fever or illness.

President Barack Obama's administration is facing sharp criticism from lawmakers as health officials scramble to contain the disease at home.

US concerns have intensified after two Dallas nurses who cared for Mr Duncan contracted the virus, which has killed some 4,500 people in West Africa.

It has now emerged that one of the nurses, Amber Vinson, may have shown symptoms as early as last Friday - three days before being diagnosed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now expanding its investigation to include passengers on a Friday flight from Dallas to Cleveland that she was on.

The 29-year-old was visiting family in the Akron, Ohio, area last weekend before she flew on Monday from Cleveland back to Dallas, where she was diagnosed.

The other ebola-stricken nurse, Nina Pham, has been moved to a federal facility in Maryland.

Officials have released a video showing Miss Pham speaking to her doctor, sitting up in bed and wiping away tears as she tells colleagues: "I love you guys."

US officials are reviewing whether to issue a ban on travel from West Africa because of the ebola outbreak, as a congressional oversight panel called for such a measure.

President Obama said he does not have a "philosophical objection" to such restrictions.

But he said experts had told him it was less effective than measures already in place.

Such a ban could result in people trying to hide where they were coming from and making them less likely to be screened, he added.

Mr Obama also said he was considering the appointment of a US ebola czar.

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