March 19, 2019

Royal Caribbean Norovirus Outbreak Sickens 475 Passengers

Norovirus outbreaks increase during the winter months because more people are together indoors. But some venues, such as nursing homes, schools, and cruise ships, can be struck by this virus at any time. A norovirus outbreak on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship has sickened 475 passengers.

Royal Caribbean Norovirus Outbreak

The cruise was cut short. It was supposed to be a seven day cruise, leaving Port Canaveral in Florida on January 6, 2019. Apparently, passengers started getting sick after eating a cruise ship-sponsored  lunch buffet in Haiti, which was the first stop. The ship is heading back to port. The company plans to clean and sanitize the vessel before its next trip.

Norovirus is a contagious virus that causes symptoms of vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Some people may experience fever, headache, and body aches. Symptoms have a short onset time. People can start getting sick within a few hours of exposure to the pathogen. And most people recover on their own without medical treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 129,678 passengers were sickened on cruise ships from 2008 to 2014. That seems like a large number, but just 10% of those illnesses were norovirus. And the number of people on those cruses was 74,000,000.

That CDC report states that close living quarters increase the amount of contact between ill persons and people who are healthy. In addition, people joining the ship during a cruise can bring the virus aboard.

If you are planning to take a cruise, you can visit the CDC’s Green Sheet Report on their Vessel Sanitation Program to see the scores of various ships from different lines. They also list the ships that scored 100, or a perfect score, on various dates.

The best way to prevent a norovirus outbreak is to stay home from work and school (and vacations) when you are sick with a vomiting or diarrheal illness. There is no vaccine against this virus. Practicing proper hand hygiene is crucial. Soap and water are better than hand sanitizers when washing your hands.

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