November 26, 2002
Call it the "sequel of the Amsterdam saga": there has been another
outbreak of an undetermined virus -- most likely the bedeviling Norwalk
strain -- on Disney Magic. Despite a strenuous scrubbing of the ship at
Port Canaveral Saturday -- by an additional 200 "cast members" according to a Disney statement -- passengers on the follow-up cruise are coming down with a flu-like illness. At this point, the count is about 60 out of the 2,400 passengers onboard -- last week's Disney Magic voyage counted some 275 who became ill.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still investigating
last week's outbreak and has said they should be able to identify the
exact virus strain by the end of the week.
In the meantime, Holland America continues to be plagued by Norwalk-like outbreaks as news reports say that 10 passengers on Statendam's most recent voyage, which docked yesterday in San Diego, fell ill with
symptoms. This is the second outbreak this month on Statendam -- 42
passengers caught the "flu" while sailing a Hawaiian itinerary in early
November. A Holland America spokeswoman did not respond today to a request for information.
The Norwalk virus has plagued cruise lines for years, particularly
during summers in the Alaska/Northwest Canada region. It is very
contagious and is spread through contact with surfaces touched by the
infected -- anything from a stair rail to a casino chip. Symptoms
include nausea, diarrhea and vomiting and it generally lasts about two
Typically, when cruise ships report a significant affected percentage
(about 3 percent or more), they undergo an intense super-sanitation
process, swabbing down surfaces with extra-strong cleaning products. But, despite efforts of Disney Magic's "cast members," not to mention
intensified preventive measures taken by Holland America's Amsterdam,
the illness continues to spread.
While cruise lines, particularly Holland America over the Amsterdam
outbreaks, are taking a lot of heat from media and travelers over handling
of information (and sensitivity towards passengers) about Norwalk Virus,
the air-borne strain, highly contagious, is not limited to floating
pleasure palaces. Norwalk and look-alike viruses have caused similar
outbreaks in other places, from a school near Houston to a hospital in
London. The virus flourishes from well populated and enclosed areas.