Norwalk Virus May Be Striking Again

July 26, 2002
The Norwalk Virus epidemic that bedeviled Princess Cruises’ Ocean Princess last month in Alaska may be striking again -- this time on Holland America's Ryndam. The ship, which sails roundtrip Inside Passage itineraries from its Vancouver home port, reported to Health Canada that over 10 percent of passengers (163 to be exact, out of 1,266 total onboard) had said they felt ill. Health Canada inspectors met the ship in Vancouver yesterday and made a thorough inspection. They also collected specimens and water samples. “We don't know yet what it is,” says Jamal Harb, public health manager for Health Canada, “but the symptoms are consistent with the Norwalk virus.” Harb says the results of the lab test will be in by Monday.
In the meantime, crew on Ryndam scoured the ship and passengers on the new voyage -- the ship was given permission to depart as scheduled -- have been alerted to the need to follow even more stringent safety precautions (such as frequent hand washing). Onboard, the only real difference passengers might notice is that they can no longer serve themselves in the buffet line; crew instead will wield serving utensils. “We are aggressively educating passengers about the symptoms and encouraging them to come to the infirmary free of charge,” says Holland America's Erik Elvejord.
Harb says at this point no other ships are reporting a significant blip in illnesses onboard and that indeed, life on Princess Cruises’ Ocean Princess is back to normal. He does say -- both on land and at sea -- that this summer, outbreaks of Norwalk Virus have been higher than in previous years.