GAVLESTON, Texas -- A Texas lab worker aboard the Carnival Cruise ship, Carnival Magic, has tested negative for the Ebola virus.
The woman is a lab supervisor at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital which handled samples from a Liberian man who died after contracting the Ebola virus. She was a passenger aboard the Carnival Magic when it left Galveston, Texas on October 12 destined for Belize and Cozumel, Mexico.
While the cruise was underway, the U.S. Center for Disease Control notified Carnival Cruise Lines on October 15 that she was aboard the Carnival Magic. Although the woman did not exhibit any symptoms or signs of and Ebola infection, she remained in isolation on board the ship.
When Mexican authorities learned of a passenger on board the Carnival Magic who might have been exposed to the Ebola virus, the ship, along with its 3,652 passengers and 981 crew members, were denied entry into Cozumel around noon Eastern Time on October 17. That's when Carnival made the decision for the ship to proceed back to Galveston to ensure the ship arrived there on time on Sunday morning.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew to the ship on Saturday, October 18, to take a blood sample from the woman before the ship docked in Galveston. That sample tested negative for the Ebola virus, according to the Galveston County Health Authority.
According to Carnival, the Carnival Magic docked into Galveston at approximately 4.30 a.m. and healthcare authorities boarded the ship to conduct a final health screening of the woman.
The Galveston County Health Authority later made the assessment that there was no evidence of a public health threat to cruise passengers or to Galveston County. The woman and her traveling companion were then allowed to leave the ship and return home without restrictions.
Although no special cleaning of the ship has been requested by U.S. health officials, Carnival said in a statement that the ship will undergo an aggressive cleaning and sanitation initiative before guests are allowed to board the ship for the next voyage.
Carnival added that it will not allow passengers or crew who have visited Guinea, Sierra Leone, or Liberia within 21 day to board any of its cruise ships.
The recent spread of the Ebola virus in the U.S. and abroad is starting to affect the tourism and travel industry as potential travelers and vacationers re-think their future travel plans.
The cruise ship industry and their related stocks are being hit particularly hard despite a drop in fuel prices. Carnival Cruise Line stock has been under pressure for the past few weeks after the cruise giant had to change itineraries due to Ebola outbreaks in west Africa. Airline stocks are also taking a tumble due to passenger fears of contracting travel-related Ebola.
"I think that cruise ships might be the most vulnerable of the travel and leisure cohort, maybe even more than airplanes, which themselves have a huge problem. It's simply disruptive to their business," said CNBC financial commentator Jim Cramer.
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. The average fatality rate is around 50%.
The virus was originally transmitted to people in Africa from non-human primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) and then spread into the human population through human-to-human transmission.
The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history. There have been cases reported in the U.S., Spain, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.
Although some cruise ships have a ship's registry in West Africa, this does not neccesarily mean that the ship has recently traveled to West Africa.
There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola.
The CDC recommends the following tips to prevent Ebola contamination:
- Practice careful hygiene. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
- Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
- Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
- Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from non-human primates.
Image Credit: CDC