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As Boat Arrives From China, Crew Reports No Illness, Remains Under Quarantine

Hope McKenney/KUCB

Updated 2/12/20 at 1:30 p.m.

A commercial cargo vessel coming from China arrived in Unalaska on Tuesday.

The U.S. Coast Guard is taking precautionary measures with the 711-foot boat in light of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China, which has killed more than 1,000 people and prompted the declaration of a global health emergency from the World Health Organization.

Jeff Deronde is a chief marine science technician with the local Marine Safety Detachment Unit. He said the M/V Johannes Maersk's last six ports of call were in China. 

"We have received a statement from the vessel that there are no sick crew members onboard," said Deronde. "That came from the master, and that's something we're requiring as well: If any vessels do come in from China, [we] get a statement attesting to the fitness of the crew and that there are no ill crew members onboard."

Still, Deronde said the 23 crew members will not be allowed to leave the vessel while it's in port and conducting cargo operations. That's because there's a 14-day federal quarantine order for vessels and people traveling from China, which is aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.  

Interim Police Chief John Lucking said the Coast Guard is taking every measure to ensure the virus doesn't reach Unalaska. 

"I want to proactively dispel any rumor that there is a confirmed case [of coronavirus] in town. That's certainly not the case," said Lucking at Tuesday's City Council meeting. "We do have a visit from a ship [coming from China], and the Coast Guard is following every procedure, protocol, and protective measure they can."

"This is a routine matter at this point," Lucking continued. "No one on the ship has been sick, and we are just continuing business as usual."

Public health officials said there have been no cases of novel coronavirus in the state of Alaska. 

Locally, officials with Iliuliuk Family and Health Services said they're monitoring the situation closely, and they're asking anyone who has traveled to China since Dec. 1 and is experiencing upper respiratory symptoms to call the clinic at 581-1202.

The clinic also recommends Unalaskans stay healthy during flu season by getting flu shots, washing their hands frequently, and staying home from work or school if they have a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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