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Coronavirus quarantine strands Valley doctor on cruise ship in Japan

Emergency workers in protective clothing exit the Diamond Princess cruise ship on Feb. 10, 2020, in Yokohama, Japan, where it is being resupplied and newly diagnosed coronavirus cases taken for treatment as it remains in quarantine. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – A Valley doctor said officials enforcing a quarantine aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Japan because of the coronavirus outbreak are handling the situation with proper caution.

Dr. Sommer Gunia, a Scottsdale surgeon, should know. She and her husband are among the approximately 3,700 people stuck aboard the Diamond Princess in Yokohama Harbor for the last week.

“I think they’ve been very cautious,” Gunia told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Monday.

“And they’re being very smart and talking with the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and working very closely with the Japanese ministry of health.”

Gunia said at first passengers were getting more information from news reports than from cruise officials, but the communication has improved.

“This is such a unique situation that I really think this is something that nobody is prepared for,” she said.

Despite the severity of the situation, Gunia said the experience has been “pretty boring” overall.

“We all are in our rooms quarantined,” she said. “There’s people monitoring the hallways to make sure we don’t go outside.”

Gunia felt fortunate to have a room with a balcony, but even when she goes out for fresh air she’s been wearing a surgical mask as a precaution.

Gunia and her husband haven’t experienced any symptoms, she said. They have to rely on the ship’s crew to bring ice, food and water and can’t have contact with other people.

“I’m lucky I have a husband that likes to play cards; that’s something that we like to do,” she said. “They bring us Sudoku puzzles.”

The ship carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew members returned to Yokohama Feb. 4 after a round-trip cruise, but passengers weren’t allowed to disembark because a person on a previous voyage had been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Initial screenings found 10 people aboard with the virus. That’s since grown to 135 cases, with 65 new patients reported Monday.

The cruise line, Princess Cruises, said Sunday it would refund the entire cost of the cruise, including travel and hotel fees, for all guests.

The coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, has infected more than 40,000 people and killed more than 900, the vast majority in China.

One case has been reported in Arizona, an unidentified member of the Arizona State University community in Tempe.

Gunia said she expects to spend another nine days aboard the ship, with the quarantine set to expire Feb. 19.

“Really, it just makes you happy thinking about back in America the freedoms I actually have,” she said of the experience.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

If you’re looking to support a local business or are a business that wants to let people know your doors are open, visit ktar.com/openforbusiness.

To help contain the spread of COVID-19 health officials have issued the following recommendations:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Don’t make close contact with sick individuals.
  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue away.
  • Clean and disinfect objects that are frequently touched.

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