The cruise ship carrying a Dallas hospital worker who had contact with lab samples of a man infected with Ebola docked in Galveston, Texas, early this morning after a helicopter retrieved a blood sample from the woman Saturday.
Carnival Cruise Lines spokesman Jim Berra said the woman's tests for the virus were negative. He said she was taken off the ship with her husband and escorted to her car, and the couple drove to Dallas on their own.
Carnival said normal cleanup aboard the ship would be adequate, but it is taking extra cleaning precautions, including bleach wipe-downs and foggers. Crews will clean everything from rails and surfaces down to the poker chips, Berra said.
He added that the worker will not be monitored further. "They're free to go," Berra said.
The ship, the Carnival Magic, had been turned away from Cozumel, Mexico, because of fear of the deadly virus, which has killed 4,500 people in West Africa.
Berra said Cozumel was the only port scratched from the ship's itinerary.
"We wound up giving our guests a $200 on-board credit and 50% off of a future cruise," he said, adding that the compensation was given to all guests, not just those who missed an excursion in the port.
"We wanted to take really good care of our guests, so we erred on the side of being generous," Berra added.
He said the hospital worker was "completely asymptomatic."
"As a matter of fact, she was monitoring her temperature even before she got on board. At no point in time did she display any symptoms whatsoever."
The cruise ship company was notified of her watch status by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday, after which she stayed in her cabin, Berra said. Prior to that, she had no restrictions and had "regular monitoring by our shipboard medical personnel."
The CDC had suggested she stay in her cabin, he added.
Health authorities had said the unidentified woman had no symptoms of infection and stayed in her cabin after news of her potential contact with the infected patient spread through the vessel several days ago.
The woman is a laboratory supervisor at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas hospital, which treated Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of the viral infection Oct. 8.
The woman left on the one-week western Caribbean cruise before two nurses from the hospital were diagnosed with Ebola infection.
Nurses Amber Vinson and Nina Pham have been transferred to facilities better prepared for such treatment. Vinson arrived at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Wednesday, and Pham was moved to the National Institutes of Health clinical center in Bethesda, Md., the next day.
Eric Lupher, a cruise ship passenger who is a reporter for a Denver television station, told his station that the helicopter arrived as the ship neared Galveston on Saturday, its pilot waving to passengers, who remained in good spirits.
Petty Officer First Class Andrew Kendrick, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman, said state, federal and local health officials were to greet the vessel. The passenger was in self-imposed isolation, he said.
"She is not ill," he said. "On top of that, she is coming out of the normal incubation period."