Ebola Cruise Comes Home; Is the Nightmare Finally Over? Our Maritime Lawyers Have the Scoop

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Carnival MagicA few days ago, our maritime lawyers reported on the so-called Ebola Cruise, aka, the Carnival Magic. One of the passengers on board had worked at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas as a lab worker, where a patient died of Ebola, and made the not-so-wise decision to go on a cruise, potentially putting thousands of people at risk for infection.

Well, the ship has now returned to its homeport of Galveston, Texas. According to reports, the passenger eventually tested negative for the virus, but that doesn’t mean that what happened is okay or that something similar won’t happen again. And it sure doesn’t mean we should all just sit back, throw our feet up and call it case closed.

If a health care employee did not have the common sense to steer clear from others, knowing well that she had worked in the hospital where there was, in fact, an Ebola case, who’s to stop others from doing the same? Furthermore, who’s going to ensure cruise lines quarantine passengers (or crew members) displaying symptoms?

Carnival failed to administer Ebola health questionnaires at the beginning of the cruise (though we know many people would likely deny symptoms anyway), but that wasn’t the worst of it. Carnival’s authorities have stated the passenger “self-quarantined” herself during the length of the cruise and the passenger herself has argued that she was toward the end of the 21 day incubation period and did not have any signs of Ebola symptoms when she decided to go ahead and board the cruise ship.

We’ve seen a lot of cruise ship accidents and illnesses over the years. We’ve also heard a lot of excuses dished out and a lot of cruise operators trying to avoid responsibility for their failure to provide a reasonably safe and sanitary onboard environment. But honestly, we’re not talking about a mechanical mishap or a few bumps and bruises suffered because a passenger slipped and fell. We’re talking about EBOLA – one of the highest mortality producing viruses in the world!

If by now you haven’t heard about Ebola, here are a few things about this deadly virus you should know:

  • Ebola is contracted through bodily fluids from an infected person.
  • The incubation period for Ebola ranges from 2 to 21 days. This means the virus can be inside your system for up to 3 weeks before you even realize it.
  • Fatality rates can be as high as 90 percent, according to the World Health Organization. The current outbreak’s fatality rate is listed at 70 percent.
  • Over 5,000 people have already contracted the virus. The current outbreak is the worst one in history.
  • No travel bans have been issued as of now, which means that an infected person can easily board a cruise ship, airplane, bus, or any other mode of transportation and put all those that might come into contact with the infected persons bodily fluids at risk of being infected themselves.
  • There is no vaccine to immunize against Ebola as of yet.

Cruise ships are notorious for the speed at which viruses and bacteria can spread. Because of the fact that ships are confined, with thousands of people on board on any given sailing, disease can spread like wildfire. We’ve seen this happen numerous times with Norovirus, but is the risk worse when the virus is Ebola?

What’s worse is the fact that cruise ships are also notorious for being lacking in adequate hygiene to meet USPH inspection standards. Several cruise lines have failed these health inspections, which means that if someone with Ebola does board a ship, there’s a really big chance they will NOT be quarantined and an even bigger chance cruise operators will not properly sanitize the ship when they debark given their failure to even know that a risk exists.

We know that Carnival sure didn’t impose the quarantine on the passenger. So, this means it’s up to the general public to use their discretion and to be on the lookout for their own wellbeing.

The lesson to be learned? Don’t count on cruise lines to protect you. Clearly Carnival didn’t see a need when sailing out of a Texas Port to even ask its passengers whether they were coming from Dallas and if so to then ask for where they worked and lived in Dallas. And worse, when it became aware of the fact that they had a potentially infected passenger on board they relied on her to quarantined herself, and they did nothing more.

We’ve seen cruise passengers go overboard, drown in on board hot tubs, and suffer other serious and even fatal injuries without cruise lines so much as saying they’re sorry. So, to those who are going on a cruise, we say be careful and good luck but don’t count on the line to be looking out for your safety, in their eyes that is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!