Norovirus Outbreaks Circle the Globe

June 9, 2006

In Seattle, folks are a-twitter about a Norovirus outbreak onboard Celebrity's Mercury this week; the ship returned to its homeport today, and figures indicate 121 of the June 2 voyage's 2,034 passengers were affected. That's about six percent.

In response, Celebrity stepped up its three-stage illness prevention program, which includes heightened cleaning procedures, use of extra-strong disinfectants, a special cleaning of high touch areas onboard (such as elevator buttons, exercise equipment, television remote controls) and brought on two additional physicians, which doubled the ship's medical staff.

Celebrity's not the only cruise line this week to wrestle with the pesky Norovirus. In Western Europe, the Southampton-based Sea Princess, part of the Princess fleet, actually skipped a call at Lisbon to arrive back in England a day early on its seven-night cruise to allow for extra time to sanitize the ship -- for the next group of passengers. On the shortened voyage, some 200 out of 1,700 folks became ill.

And on P&O Australia's Pacific Sun (geared to Australian travelers), which docked today in Sydney, 59 passengers were quarantined as a result of Noro-related symptoms. One passenger was quoted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as he complained about being wrongly quarantined. That's because, said passenger Michael Wanless, he merely had a hangover -- not Norovirus. "Quarantine me, that's fair enough, but I think that I'm entitled to be reimbursed for that part of the trip," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Friday.

In all due seriousness, the fact is that Norovirus can strike at any time on any ship and, as we see here, in any place. There's no need to fear it if you remain reasonably alert. Check out Demystifying the Myth of Norovirus and Norovirus: What you Need To Know for answers to any questions you may have.