New Orleans-bound cruise ship returns to port with possible passenger illness

Medical officials say most of 150-plus passengers already off the ship so far have mild flu-like symptoms

An investigation is underway into a potential case of the flu on a New Orleans-bound cruise ship, but officials said most of the 150 passengers on board had mild symptoms and they would still make the journey on Sunday.

At least 15 passengers were showing the symptoms of the flu, which is known to include fever, congestion, sore throat, cough and body aches, said Anne Gorcheff, a spokeswoman for Carnival. Carnival did not identify the ship, which departed from Port Canaveral, Florida, on Friday afternoon.

There is no evidence anyone on the ship has been infected with the swine flu, a type of flu that circulated in 2009, she said.

Medical officials said Thursday all Carnival passengers on the Carnival Freedom would be screened for flu-like symptoms, since the ship is scheduled to arrive in New Orleans at around 7.30pm local time on Sunday.

Lenny Stone, owner of Stone Travel in Coppell, Texas, said the ship would be inspected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but passengers were not required to take any sort of preventative medication to prevent getting sick.

A Carnival spokesman, Vance Gulliksen, said the test results were expected on Saturday morning.

More than five decades ago, the CDC issued a similar call for passengers on several ships to disembark as many people as possible for a search for a case of the shingles virus. In 1981, passengers on a Holland America ship were sent home after the CDC issued the call for them to test negative. Several people also were tested positive, but the outbreak was brought under control when the ship docked in Toronto, the Associated Press reported.

Gulliksen said in a phone interview the ship’s doctors do not believe there is anything more concerning than passengers being sick with the common flu.

The ship returned to Port Canaveral on Friday afternoon. It will be “processed like any other ship that is used for commercial travel,” Gulliksen said.

“They will be treated as any other passenger returning from that type of cruise,” he said. “All of our sanitization practices will be done at that time.”

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