WASHINGTON (AFP) - A cruise ship carrying a lab worker suspected of contact with Ebola returned to Texas on Sunday, as US media reported the woman had tested negative for the deadly disease.
The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital lab supervisor and her husband were the first passengers to disembark from the massive cruise ship, and were both screened by CDC doctors, local reporter Larry Seward said on Twitter, citing an executive with Carnival Cruise Lines.
Carnival spokesman Jim Berra told the Los Angeles Times that a helicopter picked up a blood sample Saturday and that the sample tested negative for Ebola.
The cruise company said it was going to aggressively clean and sanitize the vessel before the next trip, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not said it was necessary, Seward added.
The health worker did not show any symptoms of the disease and voluntarily remained in isolation in her cabin out of "an extreme abundance of caution," Carnival Cruise Lines had said in a previous statement.
But fears she may have been exposed to - and thus contracted - the virus that has killed more than 4,500 people in an outbreak centered in West Africa prompted officials in Belize and Mexico to rebuff the massive cruise ship.
It has now been 21 days since the unidentified lab supervisor, who may have handled clinical specimens from Thomas Eric Duncan, has been in the lab with the testing samples.
That is the accepted outer limit for the incubation period for the disease - meaning the time lapse between infection and the onset of symptoms.
Duncan, a Liberian man, was the first Ebola case diagnosed in the United States. He died on October 8.
The lab worker had left on the cruise ship out of Galveston, Texas on October 12, before the CDC updated its requirements for monitoring people who may have had contact with Duncan, according to the State Department.
Two Texas health care workers who treated Duncan have become infected with Ebola and are currently hospitalized in Atlanta, Georgia and Bethesda, Maryland.