Norovirus Makes A Comeback

December 30, 2003
Norovirus, easily the scourge of the cruise industry, has surfaced on two cruise ships over the holiday season.
*On Holland America's Volendam, 53 passengers and 11 crew members reported symptoms of the gastrointestinal illness. The ship, which was sailing a seven-night itinerary to the Gulf of Mexico and Bahamas from Port Everglades, was carrying about 1,400 passengers and 600 crew -- so the infected folks accounted for slightly more than three percent. Cruise lines are required to report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention any outbreaks at the three percent or higher mark and Holland America duly contacted the CDC. The ship also followed by-now standard procedures in response to outbreaks -- this included using extra strong disinfectants to clean public rooms. Ill passengers were confined to staterooms. The ship departed Sunday as scheduled on its next voyage.
*The Sydney-based Pacific Sky, part of the P&O Cruises Australia fleet, also experienced a holiday outbreak during a 10-night cruise to New Caledonia. The ship, which carried 1,530 passengers and 616 crew members, said that 151 and 16 respectively were affected. Ship medical officers were in touch with Australian health authorities. On its turnaround in Sydney, Pacific Sky delayed its departure so crew, utilizing techniques recommended by organizations like the U.S. CDC, could super-clean the vessel with extra-strong disinfectants.
According to the CDC, Norovirus (previously known as Norwalk Virus), affects some 23 million people annually -- and despite public perception, only a very minute percentage are cruise passengers. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and generally last for one to two days. The biggest issue with the virus is that it's so easily spread via contaminated food and contact with those infected. A good preventative measure is frequent hand-washing.
These aren't the first outbreaks of the winter cruising season -- Carnival Legend reported some cases on its November 29 sailing out of Port Everglades -- and they most certainly won't be the last. For information on precautionary measures, not to mention stepped-up cruise procedures to quickly eradicate the disease when it does strike, read Cruise Critic's Demystifying the Myths of Norovirus and Norovirus: What You Need To Know.