A crew member who fell ill on a ship from Africa is diagnosed with malaria, Jefferson Parish Councilman at Large Chris Roberts said Wednesday night.

The crew member was taken to West Jefferson Medical Center for treatment. At least three more crew members, plus the river pilot who boarded the ship, were also expected to arrive at the hospital Wednesday night.

The crew member with malaria was listed in critical condition, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said before the diagnosis was made.

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“Our doctors and staff are ready and we have instituted full safety precautions in the unlikely event that this turns out to be something of concern,” said WJMC spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo. “Everyone is using an abundance of caution until the patients can actually be assessed and appropriately diagnosed.”

Embedded in the hospital’s emergency room is the Region 1 disaster coordinator from the state, Alfonzo said.

Officials in New Orleans confirmed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Coast Guard and various government epidemiologists were at the scene in Belle Chasse, where the vessel, identified as the Marine Phoenix, anchored near the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base.

Late Wednesday, officials told WDSU that another member of the crew — who had left the ship to seek treatment in the Bahamas — had died. That crew member was also diagnosed with malaria.

The Marine Phoenix is a refrigerated cargo vessel flagged out of the African nation of Liberia. The 20-year-old ship weighs more than 7,000 tons and has more than 400 thousand cubic feet of space.

According to a release from the CDC, the ship was reported to have traveled to a port in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and others in Africa. Officials immediately downplayed the likelihood that the sickness was related to an outbreak of Ebola in that part of the world.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the crew members traveled to, or had any contact with anyone from the remote island region of DRC where Ebola cases are occurring. Given this, the chance that the crew member could have Ebola is thought to be exceedingly low,” the CDC stated. 

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Initial details state that the ship alerted Louisiana and U.S. health officials that the individuals on board were sick.

Officials with the CDC said a staff member had already been in New Orleans to train partners. He joined the Coast Guard and the Louisiana Department of Health when it docks Wednesday evening. 

“Even if a person on the ship was exposed to Ebola, once they are screened by medical personnel in New Orleans, they would not be able to go anywhere,” said WDSU Medical Editor Dr. Corey Hebert. “Even if they did get out, it has to be spread by direct bodily fluids.”

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New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Office issued the following statement following the developments.

“The City of New Orleans is in close contact with officials at the Center for Disease Control, the Coast Guard, the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals, and the Port of New Orleans. To protect the health and safety of our residents, the City has requested that all state and federal agencies take every precaution as though this is the worst-case scenario. We will continue to closely monitor the situation. “

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The Democratic Republic of Congo is reporting new Ebola cases, sparking fears that the deadly virus is expanding far beyond West Africa. Two people in Gera tested positive for Ebola. The death toll is nearing 1,500 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.