SINT MAARTEN-MEXICO – The Carnival Magic Cruise Vessel is returning to Galveston, Texas after being denied entry to Port Cozumel by the Mexican Government on Friday. This is due to a Texas lab assistant who worked at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where the first Ebola patient in the U.S. was detected and died.
Carnival Magic carries up to 4,631 passengers and 1,367 crew. The vessel was built in 2011and has a gross tonnage of 130,000.
Carnival Magic staff discovered the presence of the lab assistant while the vessel was docked in Belize. The technician who may have handled Ebola samples at the aforementioned hospital was placed in quarantine by the cruise ship Captain as a precautionary measure.
The Texas lab technician has not shown any symptoms of the virus. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) considered the passenger “very low risk”, because she has had no symptoms for the past 19 days. Ebola symptoms start to show between two and 21 days.
Prior to arriving in Mexican waters, the Carnival Magic made a port call to Belize as part of its Western Caribbean cruise itinerary. U.S. Government authorities requested permission from the Belize Government to have the quarantine passenger airlifted back to the United States of America, but this request was denied by the Belize authorities.
Based on an analysis of the situation, Belize authorities and many other Caribbean and Latin American countries lack the resources to handle a possible Ebola patient and are not willing to take any chances with respect to the health security of their own citizens.
A number of countries in the Caribbean and Latin America have instituted travel bans including the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis.
Carnival Cruise Lines according to media reports has a stated policy of denying entry to any passengers or crew who have visited Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea within 21 days of a cruise departure date.
Due to this cruise ship scare, cruise lines have now heightened their screening of cruise passengers and crew in connection with Ebola within the past 24 hours after the cruise ship scare. The contact screening protocol is in addition to travel history screening, and denial of boarding for anyone who had physical contact with, or helped care for, a person with Ebola within the 21 days of embarkation, according to Cruise Lines International Association.
The following cruise lines are already screening guests prior to boarding to ensure that they have not recently visited one of the countries where Ebola is an epidemic: Carnival, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line.
Under the earlier screening protocol, the Dallas lab technician would not have received the extra screening because she had not been to one of the countries that have the epidemic.
Carnival Magic left Galveston, Texas on October 12.