The Associated Press reports that hundreds of passengers have fallen ill with a stomach ailment aboard the cruise ship Mercury, operated by Celebrity Cruises, which is sailing in the Caribbean.
Over 300 of the 1,800 passengers are experiencing upset stomachs, vomiting and diarrhea. Another 25 or so crewmembers are also ill. The Mercury left Charleston, South Carolina on February 15th and this is the first cruise from Charleston.
The PR person for Celebrity / Royal Caribbean stated that the cruise ship's medical facilities were "overwhelmed" and another doctor and nurse boarded the Mercury in St. Kitts.
The cruise line did not report what virus or pathogen was involved, but the cruise ship dropped samples off in Puerto Rico for testing. The ship is scheduled to return to Charleston on Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recorded two outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness on the Celebrity Mercury last year. The CDC investigated outbreaks on the Celebrity Mercury in January and February 2009.
The CDC has a web page which tracks "Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships."
Celebrity's Mercury was in the news just last week when a Hazmat team and ambulances arrived at the port in Baltimore after 6 crewmembers became ill after inhaling fumes while welding on the cruise ship. The crewmembers may have poisoned due to carbon monoxide as reported in the press, although there was no carbon monoxide detected when the cruise ship arrived in port the following day. The cruise ship then repositioned to Charleston for this cruise.
We reported on the incident - Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Reported Aboard Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship. There has been no follow up stories on the cause of the illnesses or the condition of the sick crewmembers.
February 24, 2010 Update:
Artwork Maxim magazine