GALVESTON, Texas – A cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who was being monitored for Ebola returned to port Sunday after an eventful seven-day trip in which passengers had their vacations briefly disrupted with an infectious disease scare.
A lab supervisor who handled a specimen from a Liberian man who died from Ebola in Dallas showed no symptoms during the cruise but self-quarantined out of caution.
The Galveston County Health Department said the woman's lab test results indicated there was no risk to the public, and passengers of the cruise said they learned over the public address system she had tested negative. Carnival Cruise Lines didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the lab tests.
Vicky Rey, vice president of guest care for Carnival Cruise Lines, said the woman and her husband drove themselves home after arriving in Galveston early Sunday. She showed no symptoms of Ebola, and the Galveston County Health Department said Sunday that lab tests on the passenger assured officials she and the public were not at risk.
The Ebola scare added some drama to the trip for the more than 4,000 passengers on the ship.
They learned through a public address system announcement that one of the passengers was being monitored for Ebola. They watched developments about the Ebola outbreak and their ship on the news. The boat was not allowed to dock in Cozumel, depriving passengers of one of the top port destinations. Travelers snapped pictures of a Coast Guard helicopter as it landed to get a blood sample from the passenger.
"We weren't worried. We ended up just hanging out and enjoying the rest of the trip," said Meredith Brooks, a Houston banker who was on her honeymoon during the cruise.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that when the woman left the U.S. on the cruise ship from Galveston, Texas, on Oct. 12 health officials were requiring only self-monitoring. Officials stepped up their response while the cruise was underway and two nurses were diagnosed with Ebola.
Carnival Cruise Lines said in a statement that the woman was "not deemed to be a risk to any guests or crew."
"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," the statement said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Petty Officer Andy Kendrick told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard crew flew in a helicopter Saturday to meet the Carnival Magic and retrieved a blood sample from the woman. He said the blood sample was taken to a state lab in Austin for processing.
The ship was refused clearance to dock in Cozumel, Mexico on Friday, a day after Belize refused to let the passenger leave the vessel. There were no restrictions placed on other passengers aboard the ship, officials said.
Passenger James Dinkley of Thelma, Texas, took the cruise to celebrate his one-year wedding anniversary with his wife. He said there was some initial confusion and agitation after they learned of the situation, were delayed in Belize for several hours and had the Cozumel visit cancelled. But he said the cruise line kept everyone informed with regular updates after that.
"There was a lot of confusion, especially when they canceled our Cozumel day," he said.
Carnival gave passengers credit for the missed Cozumel leg. They received $200 in credits and a 50 percent discount on future cruises.