Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships are not as common as they seem, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rates of diarrheal illness on cruise ships have actually fallen in recent years, with the exception of 2012 when new or unusual strains of the virus wreaked havoc and made nasty headlines.
Between 2008–2014, 172,810 of the 73.5 million people who took cruise ship vacations developed diarrheal illness. Most of them, 92 percent, were sickened by norovirus.
Noroviruses are highly contagious and spread easily in in close quarters such as cruise ships, long-term care facilities and dormitories. They can also survive on surfaces for long periods of time.
It takes just a a small amount of norovirus to make someone sick. The amount that fits on the head of a pin is enough to make 1,000 people sick.
Symptoms, which include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and abdominal cramps, usually develop within 12 to 48 hours of exposure and typically last up to three days.
Good hand washing is the best defense. Washing hands with soap and warm water is the best way to clean hands. Hand sanitizers, even those that are alcohol-based, are not as effective.