The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that there is an outbreak of gastrointestinal sickness of a large percentage of cruise passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas cruise ship.
The CDC indicates that 281 passengers (9.21% of total passengers) are suffering from norovirus type of symptoms. The symptoms include vomiting, nausea, headaches and diarehhea. You can read the report here.
The pro-cruise site Cruise Critic calls the problem a "small outbreak" but the truth is that 9% is a high percentage. It is not unusual for passengers not to report the illness in order to avoid being quarantined in the cabin or for crew members who rely on tips to keep working after they are ill. The total numbers are often under-reported.
In addition to sick passengers, 22 crew members are reportedly ill according to the CDC.
The CDC website states that an environmental health officer and an epidemiologist will board the ship in St. Thomas, USVI on January 26, 2014 to conduct an epidemiologic investigation.
It may be possible to determine whether the outbreak is in fact related to norovirus. But the CDC will not have any success is determining why and how the virus came aboard. There is not enough time for the CDC to conduct an exhaustive scientific analysis and, as usual, the ship will not sit idle waiting for the test results. The cruise ship will continue to sail whether the CDC determines if it is norovirus or exactly why it is on the ship.
Earlier this week, cruise expert Professor Ross Klein indicated that the CDC reported 130 passengers and 12 crew members became ill with gastrointestinal illness while cruising aboard the NCL Norwegian Star.
The Majesty of the Seas returned to Miami a week ago with 70 people reported ill with gastrointestinal illnesses.
Were the outbreaks on the Royal Caribbean and NCL ships caused by the passengers not washing their hands? That's always what the cruise lines say.
Or was it due to crew members who kept working after they became sick and causing the outbreak? Or was it contaminated food or water, which is a common cause?
We will never know. The cause of gastrointestinal outbreaks is usually a mystery on cruise ships.
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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Emma Jones