Last updated: 11:53 AM ET, Thu July 02 2015

Two More Cruise Ships Report Gastrointestinal Illness Outbreaks

Impacting Travel | Princess Cruises | Theresa Norton | May 11, 2015

Two More Cruise Ships Report Gastrointestinal Illness Outbreaks

(Photo of the Star Princess courtesy of Princess Cruises)

The year’s ninth outbreak of gastrointestinal symptoms was reported on Princess Cruises’ Star Princess, which is scheduled to arrive in San Francisco on May 14. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) confirmed it was norovirus.

The line reported to the CDC that 138 passengers were suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, which is 5.31 percent of the 2,597 passengers onboard. Eighteen crew members also reported symptoms.

The ship’s crew increased cleaning and disinfection procedures, kept passengers informed, and is consulting with the CDC on comprehensive sanitation procedures in San Francisco. Two VSP environmental health officers and two epidemiologists will board the ship in San Francisco to conduct an environmental health assessment and evaluate the outbreak and response activities.

Meanwhile, Oceania Cruises reported an outbreak on the Marina last week that affected 69 passengers and 11 crew members. The CDC said it has not yet confirmed whether it was norovirus.

That ship also underwent strict cleaning and sanitation after it arrived in New York City on May 7. The VSP said it conducted an unannounced operational inspection of the ship in Miami on May 3 and will continue to monitor the outbreak, providing epidemiological support as needed.

Though norovirus is sometimes erroneously referred to as a “cruise ship disease,” it is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S., according to the CDC. It causes about 20 million illnesses every year, but only about 1 percent of all reported norovirus outbreaks occur on cruise ships.

However, it is associated with cruise ships because the CDC requires cruise ships to report gastrointestinal outbreaks, something facilities on land don’t have to do. In fact, the CDC says most norovirus outbreaks occur in food service settings.

The best way to help prevent norovirus is to practice proper hand washing and general cleanliness, the CDC reports.


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