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NOTHING TO FEAR HERE: Minister of Health Donville Inniss (centre), accompanied by George Hutson (second from right), Minister of International Business and International Transport, shook hands with Captain of the Carnival Victory, Gianpaolo Casula (left), and a member of his crew after it was deemed that none of the other crew members or the 3 000 visitors showed signs of Influenza.

 
   

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Flu scare at Port

5/14/2009

By Khalil Goodman

A single member of a cruise ship, which had docked at the Bridgetown Port, was placed under strict quarantine onboard the vessel after exhibiting symptoms of influenza. The subsequent screening of all those on board from health officials slowed the activity at the port, however, the port was not closed.

The nationality and name of the female crew member of the Carnival Victory was not disclosed. However, the media understand that while travelling from Dominica Tuesday night to Barbados, she was quarantined prior to the ship reaching Barbados in the morning.

Medical officials from the Barbados Ministry of Health, in an effort to stop any possible spread of the flu, were on hand prior to the ship’s arrival at 6:30 a.m. to screen the ship’s crew and its 3 000 passengers before they disembarked the vessel.

This lengthy but important procedure resulted in a backlog of the port’s day-to-day traffic and unconfirmed reports of the port’s closure due to fears that the crew member may have had the H1N1 “Swine Flu” virus.

However, Minister of Health Donville Inniss said that at no time was the port closed.

Speaking to the media just before midday at a press conference held at the port, Minister Inniss said, “Officials of the Bridgetown Cruise terminal have confirmed that at no time was the facility closed, but the strict health procedures for managing such situations were fully activated, which resulted in some passenger delay.” George Hutson, Minister of International Business and International Transport, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, and Chairman of Barbados Port Inc. David Harding, accompanied the Minister at the press conference.

Assuring the Barbadian Public “to continue business as usual since they will not be in contact with the affected crew-member,” Inniss added, the “Ministry of Health has already sent a sample to the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre in Trinidad and Tobago for further testing, to determine if it is the H1N1 virus.”

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. St. John, noted that the results of this test should be available later tonight.

Barbadians on Ship

The timeline established by the Ministry of Health indicate that the ship departed the Republic of Dominica Tuesday evening, whereupon the Ministry of Health in Barbados were made aware of the fact that one crew member displayed flu-like symptoms.

On board, the anti-viral drug Tamiflu was administered, and the ship’s Captain Gianpaolo Casula decided to have the sick crew member placed under strict quarantine.

By 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joy St John, members of the Ministry of Health and the Port’s medical officers, were on hand to assess the situation and determine procedures. The Port health doctor and his team went on board to take the necessary sample for the CEC, and the four medical teams screened all disembarking passengers for symptoms of the Influenza. Only passengers and crew given the all-clear were authorised to disembark the vessel.

The Health Minister said that the ship did contain some members of the Barbadian public and those “whether Barbadians or visitors, were provided with a health alert card, so in the event that [they] present any symptoms of the flu [they will know what to do when contacting medical personnel].”

However, he reiterated that none of those who disembarked the Carnival Victory showed any symptoms of the flu.
“The Ministries of Health and International Transport will continue to work collaboratively to ensure that the health and safety of the front-line personnel at the island’s ports of entry…Barbadians in general, are not compromised.” He added.

The Carnival Victory was scheduled to leave Barbados on Wednesday evening to travel to St. Lucia, and Minister Hutson noted that the medical personnel have already been apprised of the situation.

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