The cruise industry is in the “eye of the storm” today. A Dallas lab worker believed to have handled specimens while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola on October 8, is now one of approximately 4,000 people – passengers and crew – aboard the Carnival Magic. The Centers for Disease Control contacted Carnival Cruise Lines on Wednesday to alert them that the lab worker is a passenger, and is now under quarantine aboard the ship.
According to initial reports, the lab worker is considered “very low risk.” The CDC says it has been 19 days since the lab worker would have had the opportunity to be exposed to the virus and is not showing any symptoms which typically appear 2 to 21 days after exposure. Since Duncan’s death, two nurses who treated him have been diagnosed with Ebola and are currently being treated at U.S. hospitals.
Today’s news will certainly fan the flames of the Ebola panic across the nation, as well as add another strike against cruise travel safety. It also calls into question how the CDC is handling the threat and the protocols in place for those who may have been exposed.
The airline industry responded quickly by screening passengers traveling from West Africa. Infectious diseases, such as Norovirus, are a known problems aboard cruise ships where thousands of people are confined and crowded together. It will be interesting to see how the cruise industry will handle this new threat. Meanwhile, our thoughts are with the passengers and crew aboard the Carnival Magic.