(6 p.m.) -- Carnival Cruise Lines reports that aside from 10 guests and 3 crewmembers in isolation, all Carnival Liberty passengers who reported symptoms during a major outbreak of what's suspected to be Norovirus have fully recovered.
During the course of the cruise -- a 16-night trans-Atlantic that left Rome on November 3 and is scheduled to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale on November 19 -- 506 of 2,804 passengers (18.05 percent) and 137 of 1166 (11.75 percent) crewmembers have reported gastrointestinal symptoms. Today, only four new guest cases were reported; there were no new crew cases.
These latest figures from the line and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are lower than what was previously reported, but the percentages are still the highest so far this year. The CDC has investigated 27 cases of suspicious symptoms, and the only voyage (where Norovirus was confirmed as the "causative agent") that comes close, at least in terms of sick passengers, is the March 6 voyage of Celebrity's Mercury with 10.04 percent.
Cruise ships carrying more than 100 passengers and sailing from 3 to 21 days are required to report outbreaks to the CDC when 3 percent or more of passengers or crew have reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness.
Though some media reports indicate this could be the cruise industry's largest outbreak, a spokeswoman for the line tells us that reporting of symptoms by and for the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program has only been this thorough in recent years (CDC online summaries date back to 1994), so that's a pretty tough claim to quantify.
We spoke with Dave Forney, the chief of CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program, who adds that it's also "difficult to compare because of the length of this cruise. If it were a seven-day cruise, you would not have had these absolute numbers. Fortunately very few people are currently sick."
Because the virus is generally spread through human contact, that's more likely to happen and at a faster rate on longer voyages in which passengers remain in close proximity to one another; Carnival Liberty is sailing a 16-night ocean crossing with a whopping 10 days at sea.
Carnival has delayed Carnival Liberty's next voyage by two days, and will use the time in Ft. Lauderdale to obliterate any lingering germs via a thorough sanitation. For details on the shortened voyage and compensation for booked passengers, click here.