Meningitis Onboard Cruise Ship Puts Four in Hospital

October 9, 2012
MSC-Orchestra (11 a.m. EDT) -- All passengers and crew onboard MSC Orchestra were given antibiotics after four crewmembers were hospitalized for bacterial meningitis on Sunday (October 7).

A statement from the Italian cruise line confirmed that the affected crew were being treated in a hospital in Livorno, Italy, with two of the crewmembers listed in serious condition.

According to CNN, a report by the Italian Health Ministry said, "The strand was found in the crew that worked in the kitchen and ... therefore, they should not have had continuous and close contact with passengers."

Meningococcal meningitis, which attacks the lining of the brain and the spinal cord, is passed by close contact with respiratory secretions or saliva, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The U.S. Customer Care team for MSC has posted on the Cruise Critic forums, naming the specific strand of meningitis as Neisseria.

The 89,600-ton ship was carrying 2,718 passengers and 967 other crew when the outbreak occurred. All passengers and crew were given the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, according to MSC, and Italy's health ministry have advised all passengers who have disembarked the ship in the past week to take similar precautions.

While MSC's statement says that a medical task force headed up by Pierfrancesco Lepore, "head of MSC Cruises Corporate Medical Services, Specialist in Hygiene and Preventive Medicine," have boarded the ship and acted promptly to prevent any further occurrence of the illness, some Cruise Critic members have complained that the line has been slow to release information about the incident.

Member sorcel recounted her experience:

"We did not depart on schedule and just before dinner around 7pm they announced that a member of the crew was found to have bacterial meningitis. This announcement came first in Italian -- and after that it was impossible to hear anything in the other languages. Dinner proceeded as normal. Later at night -- a letter (in extremely bad English) was distributed to say that a crew member was found to have bacterial meningitis. We were issued a ciproflaxin 500mg tablet with no explanation of side effects or cautions. I went down to the medical centre to ask -- but there everything was quite chaotic ... I have been advised to contact my physician - but given no advice about what to do, symptoms to look out for etc ..."

Orchestra is currently in Valencia, Spain, on a 7-night Mediterranean sailing out of Florence.

--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor