Last updated: 05:18 PM ET, Mon April 13 2015

Two Cruise Ships Report Gastrointestinal Outbreaks

Impacting Travel | Royal Caribbean International | Theresa Norton | April 13, 2015

Two Cruise Ships Report Gastrointestinal Outbreaks

About 220 passengers on two cruise ships were exhibiting symptoms of gastrointestinal distress as they returned to San Diego.

Royal Caribbean International’s Legend of the Seas reported that 114 passengers (6.53 percent of the 1,763 onboard) and two crew members reported suffering from vomiting and diarrhea during the March 30-April 14 voyage, according to the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) operated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The cause of the outbreak was listed as unknown, although the symptoms are often indicative of norovirus.

Meanwhile, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Infinity returned to port on April 13 after 106 passengers, 5 percent of the 2,117 onboard, and six crew members reported gastrointestinal symptoms.

The CDC indicated the cause was norovirus, a very contagious virus that people often call “food poisoning” or “stomach flu.” Norovirus is spread by contact with an infected person, from contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Each year, it causes 19 million to 21 million illnesses predominately on land as well as at sea, the CDC said. Cruise ships must report outbreaks when 2 percent or more of the passengers or crew report gastrointestinal illness.

“Those affected by the short-lived illness responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered onboard the ship,” Celebrity said in a statement.

During the sailing, Celebrity implemented enhanced cleaning procedures and protocols using products and disinfectants proven to kill norovirus. Upon arrival in San Diego, the ship underwent an “extensive and thorough sanitizing onboard the ship and within the cruise terminal, to help prevent any illness from affecting the subsequent sailing.” Additionally, a VSP environmental health officer and one epidemiologist boarded the ship to conduct an environmental health assessment. Specimens tested by the CDC determined the causative agent was norovirus.

When Legend of the Seas arrives on April 14, the CDC will conduct a similar evaluation. It also was undergoing stringent sanitizing procedures.

Celebrity said guests boarding the next cruise were asked if they experienced gastrointestinal symptoms within the last three days. Also, if they were uncomfortable about boarding the ship, Celebrity said its staff would help them reschedule their cruise.

Last week, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl also experienced an outbreak on the Miami-based ship. It reported that 107 of 2,472 passengers (4.37 percent) reported vomiting and diarrhea along with seven crew members on the March 26-April 6 cruise. Two CDC environmental health officers boarded the ship and conducted tests to determine the cause.


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