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article imageMeasles-plagued Scientology ship leaves St Lucia

By AFP     May 3, 2019 in World

A cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology that was quarantined in St Lucia for two days because of a measles case has left the Caribbean island and was headed toward Curacao on Friday, maritime tracking services said.

The Freewinds left the port capital Castries on Thursday at 11:15pm (0315 GMT Friday) and was cruising toward Willemstad in Curacao, a distance it previously covered in two days, according to myshiptracking.com and cruisin.me.

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 -- a female crew member, according to Merlene Fredericks-James, St Lucia's chief medical officer.

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 eschew medical interventions.

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