Health authorities scrambled yesterday to track hundreds of passengers who disembarked from a cruise ship in Cambodia last week after a woman tested positive for coronavirus, heightening fears about the spread of the disease around the world.
The new case raises questions about how companies and countries should handle monitoring and quarantine for people who may have been exposed to the new virus, since the American woman from the Westerdam cruise ship had passed the usually presumed incubation period of 14 days.
Holland America Line, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp, said it is working with governments and health experts to track passengers.
"Guests who have already returned home will be contacted by their local health department and be provided further information," the company said in a statement.
Nearly 200 passengers from the Westerdam have returned to their home countries after travelling through Malaysia and Thailand, authorities said, though none of them displayed any symptoms.
Some 1,455 passengers and 802 crew first embarked on the cruise. It spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand even though the ship said there were no coronavirus cases aboard.
In Cambodia, at least 236 passengers and 747 crew remain aboard the vessel off the port city of Sihanoukville, Holland America said.
Several hundred other Westerdam passengers who left the ship are still in hotels in Cambodia and are being tested yesterday for coronavirus, according to passenger Holley Rauen, a public health nurse and midwife from Fort Myers, Florida.
It was not immediately clear how the American woman contracted the virus, but the positive test in Malaysia came after she had spent more than 14 days on the Westerdam, which departed from Hong Kong on Feb. 1.
Passengers had been cleared to travel by Cambodian authorities when the cruise ship docked on Thursday. The company said passengers were tested regularly on board and Cambodia also tested 20 people once it docked, but not the woman who contracted the virus.