A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who had handled a lab specimen from the United States' first Ebola patient now is on its way back to Texas — after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico.
The passenger had handled a lab specimen from Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died from Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, and is herself being monitored for signs of the disease.
The woman, who Carnival said works as a lab supervisor at that hospital, has voluntarily self-quarantined on the ship, the Carnival Magic.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she poses no risk, because she has not shown any symptoms for 19 days, and says that she had no direct contact with Duncan, who died Oct. 8. When the woman left the U.S. on the cruise, health officials were requiring only self-monitoring, Psaki said.
On Thursday, officials in Belize refused to let the passenger leave the ship. The government of Belize said it had refused a U.S. government request to fly the woman home through the Belize City airport.
The ship left Cozumel waters at midday with the goal of returning to its home port of Galveston Sunday morning as originally scheduled, Carnival said.
Passengers will get a $200 credit in their ship accounts, and a 50 percent discount for future cruises, because they weren't able to go ashore in Cozumel.
The ship left Galveston on Sunday as part of a seven-day trip, NBC News reported.
The U.S. government had been working to return the woman and her husband to the U.S. before the ship completes its cruise. The White House said the State Department was working to secure their transportation home.
An administration official explained to the AP that the efforts were being made out of an abudance of caution, though it's believed the woman poses no health risk.
When the Magic made a port call in Belize, other passengers were allowed to disembark, but the health care worker and her spouse were not, Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz said. There have been no restrictions placed on other passengers aboard the ship, officials said.
Here is Carnival's full statement:
Late afternoon on Wednesday, Oct. 15., we were made aware by the U.S. CDC of a guest sailing this week on board Carnival Magic who is a lab supervisor at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. At no point in time has the individual exhibited any symptoms or signs of infection and it has been 19 days since she was in the lab with the testing samples. She is deemed by CDC to be very low risk. At this time, the guest remains in isolation on board the ship and is not deemed to be a risk to any guests or crew. It is important to reiterate that the individual has no symptoms and has been isolated in an extreme abundance of caution. We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board.