Illness On Board Of Liberian-Flagged Ship Is Malaria Not Ebola – CDC Confirms

PHOTO CAPTION: Ambulances with sick crew members leaving Port Ship Services in Belle Chasse (FOX 8 photo)

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) – The CDC looks into reports of an illness on a Liberian-flagged ship that will be moved Thursday from Belle Chasse to the Port of New Orleans.

The State Department of Health and Hospitals confirmed testing a patient positive for malaria. Officials say that an ill crew member disembarked from the Bahamas two days ago, where he was diagnosed with Malaria and later died. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said the deceased crew member had been removed from the ship in Cuba, quoting the Coast Guard.

The CDC added that two other patients showed mild symptoms and are being assessed.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite, and it is not contagious. People with malaria often experience fever, chills and flu-like illness.  

The ship's itinerary included Matadi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in addition to other ports. Based on a hospital's request, the CDC conducted tests on the crew member who died, and the results showed that this crew member was negative for the type of Ebola that is causing the current outbreak in West Africa.

The Liberian-flagged "Marine Phoenix," a refrigerated cargo vessel, docked in Belle Chasse Wednesday evening, and all on board were hospitalized. Federal and state health officials met the ship and managed the patient transfers. West Jefferson Medical Center received at least three crew members and a river pilot who had boarded the ship.

"Our doctors and staff are ready and we have instituted full safety precautions in the unlikely event that this turns out to be something of concern," said hospital spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo.

The roughly 15 other people on board went to other hospitals throughout the city to be evaluated as a precaution.  

The CDC released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

"CDC received word early this morning about a ship that would be arriving at the New Orleans port with an ill passenger on board. US Coast Guard and EMS crews met the boat and EMS will be transporting the ill crew member to a local hospital for evaluation and care. The vessel's itinerary did include Matadi, DRC, in addition to other ports, but there is no evidence to suggest that the crew members traveled to, or had any contact with anyone from the remote inland region of DRC where Ebola cases are occurring. Given this, the chance that the crew member could have Ebola is thought to be exceedingly low. A CDC staff member who had been in New Orleans to train partners will be joining a team from the Coast Guard and Louisiana Department of Health in meeting the ship later today when it docks. We will be evaluating two other crew members who reported mild illnesses recently and will be on hand to answer questions and provide information."

The city released the following statement Wednesday evening:

"The City of New Orleans is in close contact with officials at the Center for Disease Control, the Coast Guard, the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals, and the Port of New Orleans.  To protect the health and safety of our residents, the City has requested that all state and federal agencies take every precaution as though this is the worst-case scenario.  We will continue to closely monitor the situation." READ MORE OF THIS

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