Willemstad, Curaçao (Netherlands Antilles) (AFP) - Passengers confined to a Church of Scientology cruise ship after a crew member came down with measles could be permitted to disembark in Curacao as early as Tuesday, health authorities said.
Blood samples have been sent for testing in the Netherlands from passengers who could not prove they had been vaccinated for measles or previously contracted the highly contagious disease.
"We hope that by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest that we'll have results," Izzy Gerstenbluth, the island's chief epidemiologist, told AFP-TV in an interview.
The government doctor said it was then vital to reach "consensus among our international partners... on embarkation and disembarkation policies" so as "not to be second-guessed later on."
The Freewinds had sailed last week to Saint Lucia, where it was placed under quarantine after a Danish crew member was diagnosed with measles.
The ship returned Saturday to its home port of Willemstad, Curacao, with 300 people aboard. The island is an autonomous country within the Dutch kingdom.
"We don’t have an outbreak of measles in Curacao. There is no outbreak as such of measles on the boat," Gerstenbluth said.
"There’s nobody on the boat that did anything wrong. Somebody came from Europe and after a couple of days had the sniffles and was isolated and turned out to have measles. We're trying to contain."
"The isolation procedures on the ship were excellent. They have a confined area within the doctor's ward -- so it's separated from the rest of the ship," the epidemiologist said.
"In the ward, there are separate isolation rooms. (…) The patient never got out of the room. She stayed and when she needed anything, like food, it was brought to her by people wearing masks and gloves," he explained.
The Church of Scientology says the 440-foot (134-meter) vessel is used for religious retreats and is normally based in Curacao.