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Health Care Worker On Cruise Ship Tests Negative For Ebola

The cruise ship Carnival Magic passes near Cozumel , Mexico, on Friday.
Angel Castellanos
The cruise ship Carnival Magic passes near Cozumel , Mexico, on Friday.

A health care worker who had self-quarantined herself aboard a Carnival Cruise Lines ship has tested negative for Ebola and was allowed to disembark with the rest of the passengers in Galveston, Texas, on Sunday.

In a statement, the Galveston County Health Authority said it had determined "there is no evidence of a public health threat to cruise passengers or to Galveston county."

This, of course, marks the end of a story full of high-seas drama. It began last week, when the woman, a lab supervisor who reportedly handled specimens from Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan at a Dallas hospital, decided to quarantine herself aboard the ship. As news got out, Belize refused to let the U.S. evacuate the woman, who has not been named, through its airport and Mexico declined to let the cruise ship dock at its shores.

At the time, The New York Times reported:

"Officials said the risk of infection was very low, but the revelation deepened the impression that the administration was struggling to stay ahead of the virus and the public anxiety. ...

"In Texas, Mr. Perry, a Republican who is a presidential aspirant, said he had asked Mr. Obama by phone to place those who have had direct contact with Ebola patients on the federal no-fly list. In a news conference in Austin, Mr. Perry called it 'indefensible' that the nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, was allowed to fly to Ohio. 'It defies common sense,' he added, that someone involved in the care of Ebola patients 'would travel out of state or go on a cruise.' "

Eventually, on Friday, the cruise decided to turn around and head back to Galveston. A helicopter was sent to collect a blood sample from the woman to test for Ebola.

That test came back negative and everyone aboard the ship was allowed disembark. The Chicago Tribune reports that guests were given $200 onboard credit and 50 percent off a future cruise.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.