We are unsure whether to call the repeated outbreaks of Norovirus epidemic, but the reoccur despite apparently serious efforts by the cruise ship industry to eradicate them. Being sick for three days on most any cruise will generate a fair amount of bad press, but the ships continue to be booked and sail with flags flying. We have assembled a roundup of relatively current information which we hope will help our readers to make informed decisions, and retain reasonable expectations when they swipe the card for a cruise. Not all cruises result in infected passengers, but the frequency is highly significant.
From E Turbo News - How can passengers protect themselves: The first place for caution is getting onboard the ship and grabbing the handrails, which are touched by everyone, as viruses are brought on by passengers and crew. The next place for vigilance is public restrooms. A study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases found that only 37 percent of 273 randomly-selected public restrooms on cruise ships were cleaned daily; another researcher found that only 25 percent of restroom exit door handles were cleaned daily. Caution is recommended at the buffet table. In June 2010, 260 Disney Magic passengers developed gastroenteritis. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) traced the illness to shrimp served on the lunch buffet as the ship left port. “…A variety of bacterial and parasitic and parasitic pathogens” were found in stool samples of passengers who ate the shrimp,” the report stated.
From The Daily Record: The Boudicca, owned by Fred Olsen, underwent an intensive fumigation yesterday before leaving for a cruise to the Adriatic. Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS advised environmental health staff on the ship’s deep clean. The ship was hit by a similar outbreak in April 2010, when she was forced to cut short a trip to the Mediterranean and return to port in Liverpool.
From CBC News: About 200 passengers became ill with the gastrointestinal illness, which causes vomiting and diarrhea. The company did not immediately return a call and email seeking further details. Earlier in the weekend, two Princess cruise ships were forced to undergo a complete disinfection at their home port of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after dozens of passengers and crew fell ill.
From Daily Mail: Contaminated surfaces must be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly to prevent continued spread of the disease. Vicky Garcia, an executive vice president for Cruise Planners/American Express in Coral Springs, told the Sun Sentinel: 'It's not a [cruise] ship disease. It happens elsewhere.'
From Fox News: After the first outbreak, the ship was cleaned during the regular 12-hour Saturday passenger turnarounds in Fort Lauderdale. But when the ship was hit with outbreak number two, the cruise line consulted with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and decided to bring it back to Fort Lauderdale two days early for an “enhanced cleansing protocol.”
Norovirus outbreaks occur in different areas, it's not just on cruise ships
From MSNBC: Oregon public health officials have traced a nasty outbreak of norovirus infections in a group of soccer players to an unlikely source: a reusable grocery bag contaminated with what some experts are calling “the perfect pathogens.”
From NHS: Between 600,000 and 1 million people in the UK catch norovirus every year. You may have heard of it as the “winter vomiting bug” because the illness is more common in winter. However, the virus can be caught at any time of the year. What should I do?
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- Take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.
- If you feel like eating, eat foods that are easy to digest.
- Stay at home and don't go to the doctor, because norovirus is contagious and there is nothing the doctor can do while you have it.
- However, contact your GP to seek advice if your symptoms last longer than a few days or if you already have a serious illness.
From KSU: “We have a duty to inform the public that this has occurred and that it’s been remedied,” said Rep. Rick Olson, D-Des Moines. “I want to keep my kids healthy.” Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City, said the public needs accurate information from the health department, not speculation. “It would seem like after an investigation is concluded that information could be released,” she said. Records obtained by the Quad-City Times and the Gazette through an Open Records request with the Johnson County Public Health Department indicate more than 30 people contracted norovirus after visiting the swim facility in March. Johnson County, which handled the facility investigation, inspects pools in Johnson, Iowa, Louisa and Muscatine counties.
From Carolina Live: "Norovirus is very infectious and easily spreads from person to person. Those who have the virus can continue to spread it to others up to two weeks after their recovery," Dr. Gibson said. "Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water is the most effective way to stop transmission of illness from person to person. Commonly handled surfaces such as bathroom sink hardware, doorknobs and handrails can become contaminated by the unwashed hands of an ill person and further spread the illness. However, effective cleaning and control measures can easily stop the transmission of disease. You can read DHEC's cleaning guidelines here.
From TBD HU: The Health Unit has confirmed, through laboratory tests, that Norovirus has been identified in two stool samples of people who attended the Mother’s Day buffet at This Old Barn on Sunday, May 13. To date, 136 people have reported being ill. Food and water samples are being processed by Public Health Ontario Laboratories in Thunder Bay and Toronto and the Health Canada Laboratory in Ottawa in an attempt to match the Norovirus found in cultures from the tested stool samples.