The Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") report that 118 of the 2,730 passengers aboard the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship have reported to the ship's medical facility with vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms of gastrointestinal illness.
The Solstice is currently on a 14 day cruise and will return to Fort Lauderdale on December 11, 2011.
Pursuant to the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program, environmental health officers and an epidemiologist will board the cruise ship, once it returns to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow, in order assess the outbreak and the cruise line's response activities.
It has been our experience over the years that the "official" CDC numbers of ill passengers and crewmembers is usually less than the true number of those afflicted with viral illnesses. This is because many sick passengers know that they will be quarantined in their cabins or they simply do not want to wait in the long lines outside of the ship infirmary. Often, sick crewmembers are pressed to work notwithstanding their sicknesses.
We wrote about the problem of under reporting last year when the Celebrity Mercury experienced a prolonged outbreak of norovirus: Is Celebrity Cruises Under-Reporting Sicknesses to the CDC?
This is not the first time the Solstice has experienced an outbreak this year. In January and February, there were norovirus outbreaks on the Solstice with one passenger dying due to exposure to the virus.
Celebrity Cruises has experienced other bouts of widespread illnesses in 2011. Over 100 passengers became sick on the Millennium in May of this year.
Not all gastrointestinal outbreaks are documented with the CDC. The cruise lines do not have to report the outbreaks when the cruise ship does not call on a U.S. port. In September, norovirus broke out on Celebrity's Eclipse sailing out of Southampton, England. You will find no mention of it in the official CDC database.
Earlier this week, we discussed Is there a Cure for the Cruise Ship Virus?
If you were on the Solstice and have something to add to this story, please leave a comment below. Was the sickness more widespread than reported? How did the cruise line handle the situation?
Photo credit: Examiner