Olympic Cruise Ship Worker Diagnosed with Leprosy
The cruise line released a statement late last week, saying the crew member worked in the engine room of the Statendam, a 1,258-passenger vessel that is one of three ships chartered to house police and security personnel during the Olympic Games.
"During a routine examination, an engine room crew member with no guest contact was diagnosed with Hansen's Disease (leprosy), a curable condition of the skin and nerves," the line said in its statement.
Vancouver Coastal Health, a local health department, issued a separate report on Friday stating that the crew member, who is not a Canadian resident, was diagnosed on Thursday, February 18th.
"There is no public health risk associated with this case and the crew member, who did not work in a service or passenger support role, is undergoing treatment," Vancouver Coastal Health said in its statement. "Hansen's disease is curable and is not considered highly contagious. The worker had no contact with law enforcement or Canadian Forces personnel on board the ship, and they are not considered at any risk, nor are the public at risk."
Leprosy is caused by bacteria that target the peripheral nerves and upper respiratory tract. Contrary to popular belief, the disease does not cause body parts, like fingers and toes, to fall off. Instead, leprosy causes skin lesions, numbness, and muscle weakness. Leprosy is often transmitted by prolonged close contact and via contact with infected nasal droplets. Genetics also play a factor, since most people have a natural immunity to the disease.
The condition is easily treated with antibiotics, and a person is considered non-contagious as soon as the medication is started. If left untreated, symptoms can get progressively worse, causing permanent damage to the eyes, skin, nerves, and limbs.
The afflicted crew member is reported to have already begun treatment, and has returned to their undisclosed country of origin for further medical assistance.
While the chances of other onboard personnel contracting the disease is low, health officials encourage those with questions to consult with their occupational health physician.