Salt into the Wound: Royal Caribbean Denies Legionnaires Disease Came from Liberty of the Seas

Last week we reported on an article in the BBC about a former Royal Caribbean captain who died after contracting Legionnaire's disease. BBC's story was entitled Ex-Royal Caribbean Captain Died of Legionella. His widow is now proceeding with an inquest back in the UK.    

This is a disturbing story which we looked into last year: Royal Caribbean Delivers Cruel Blow to Widow of Beloved Captain Tore Myhra.

Royal Caribbean initially declined comment to the BBC saying that it does not comment about pending legal cases, but it looks like the cruise line has changed its mind. Royal Caribbean just sent the BBC a statement saying for the first time that "Royal Caribbean is certain that Mr. Myhra did not contract Legionella while sailing on board Liberty of the Seas."  The cruise line further states that Captain Myhra reported to the Captain Tore Myhraship's doctor only with "flu-like symptoms."

It is interesting to contrast Royal Caribbean's denials today with what the cruise line stated when Captain Myhra fell ill on the cruise ship. Back in December 2009, Royal Caribbean did not deny that the cruise ship had the deadly bacteria. It stated only that ". . . we do not know the source of the guest's legionellosis . . " The cruise line further explained that in response to the legionella-related death it sanitized key areas onboard the ship, including whirlpools and the H2O Zone.  

As we reported in 2009 in our article Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner concluded that Captain Myhra became sick on the cruise ship and suffered "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory difficulty and dry cough.'' His symptoms worsened and he died of "Legionella pneumophila pneumonia" the day after he departed the cruise ship, on November 1, 2009.

The Miami Herald covered the story and interviewed the Centers for Disease Control: The Herald said that the CDC investigated "five or six cases of Legionnaires' disease aboard cruise ships going in and out of South Florida in the past three months" around the time of Captain Myhra's death.

The South Florida Business Journal reported that during the next cruise, a family on the Liberty of the Seas found the H20 water area and hot tubs were closed six out of seven days of the cruise. A passenger reportedly said "This cruise started off horrible as we were told there had been two cases of Legionnaire's disease on the 11/1 sailing and that Customs was also checking the entire ship . . . " Another passenger mentioned receiving a letter in the stateroom, indicating a passenger on the previous cruise had been diagnosed with Legionnaire's, so the H20 Zone and hot tubs were closed. 

Why is Royal Caribbean now so "certain" that its former captain did not contract the disease on its cruise ship and he had just "flu-like" symptoms?  

It seems like this cruise cruise line will say anything to avoid bad press, even if it means pouring salt into the wounds of Captain Myhra's grieving wife and daughter.  

Passenger Paid Settlement in Legionnaires' Disease Cruise Case

CruiseCritic reports that a passenger whose husband died after contracting Legionnaires' Disease during a cruise aboard Fred Olsen Lines' Black Watch (who would name a cruise ship, Black Watch?) received a settlement after three years of litigation.

Audrey Heath, from the U.K. sailed with her husband, Robert Heath, on the Fred Olsen cruise ship when a number of passengers were affected by the illness while onboard. The cruise line ended the cruise early, Mr. Heath went to see his local doctor, who performed no tests, and sent Mr. Heath Legionnaires' Disease - Cruise Deathhome with antibiotics. He died at home the next day.

An inquest ruled that the cruise line exposed Mr. Heath to Legionnaires' Disease, and his doctors failed to provide appropriate medical treatment or admit him to a hospital.  Following the decree relating his death to Legionnaires aboard the cruise ship - the cruise line and shoreside doctors agreed to a settlement. 

Ms. Heath received a £70k settlement (a little over $100,000), a small amount for wrongful death by U.S. standards. 

The Fred Olsen Lines are in the press quite a bit for many cases of norovirus, which also can be traced to improper cleaning protocols on the cruise ships.

We have written about Legionnaires' Disease in prior blogs:

Liberty of the Seas & Legionnaires' Disease - Disease of the Seas? 

Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas
 

 

Credits:

Black Watch cruise ship photograph                   Milford Haven Port Authority website

Liberty of the Seas & Legionnaires' Disease - Disease of the Seas?

Legionella - Cruise ShipThe Miami Herald reports today that a tourist from the U.K. who died from Legionnaires' disease had previously sailed on a seven-day Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.  

The newspaper identifies the English cruise passenger as Mr. Tore Myhra. 

Previously, there was speculation that Mr. Myhra may have contracted the disease at a local hotel here in Miami, the luxurious Epic Hotel & Residences.  However, the U.S. Center for Disease Control ("CDC") said that the hotel was not implicated in his death because another person who died of the same strain of Legionella had not stayed at the hotel. 

The Herald's article today raises the issue whether Mr. Myhra was exposed to Legionella on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  The newspaper quotes the medical examiner's report that Mr. Myhra became sick on the cruise ship and suffered "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory difficulty and dry cough.''

The newspaper reports that when the Liberty of the Seas ship returned to port in Miami on October 31st, Mr. Myhra was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. His symptoms worsened and he died of "Legionella pneumophila pneumonia" on November 1st at the hospital. 

Royal Caribbean's PR spokesperson, Cynthia Martinez, is quoted as saying that the cruise ship "reacted quickly" to the report of the Legionnaires' case.  It is less than clear what this means, Legionella - Cruise Shipbecause the cruise ship kept the sick passenger on the ship and did not request a medevac with the Coast Guard.

The Herald also interviewed a spokesman from the Center for Disease Control.  The newspaper reports that the CDC has investigated "five or six cases of Legionnaires' disease aboard cruise ships going in and out of South Florida in the past three months."

The CDC representative appears to be assisting the cruise line in damage control, based on the CDC's quotes in the newspaper: 

"All appropriate steps have been taken.'' 

"Cruise ships are very aggressive in responding to such outbreaks." 

Cruising is "a very safe endeavor.''

The CDC refused to identify the cruise ships where passengers contracted Legionnaires' disease, which is unfortunate because this should be public information. The obvious question remains - did the Liberty of the Seas have prior cases of Legionella?

It makes me nervous when a Federal agency acts like a cheerleader for the cruise lines while refusing to disclose public information regarding which cruise ships may have Legionella.

UPDATE:

The South Florida Business Journal has an excellent article today "Legionnaire's May Be Linked to Ship."  The articles refers to comments posted on the popular CruiseCritic site that a passenger on the Liberty of the Seas had been diagnosed with Legionnaire's, so the H20 Zone and hot tubs were closed . . .

 Liberty of the Seas

Cruise Ship - Legionella Information:

Legionnaires' Disease During Cruise Linked to Water Supply

Legionnaires' Disease Is Cited in Cruise Death On Celebrity Cruise Ship

CDC: What is Legionnaires' disease?

 

 

Credits:

Legionella cells                     scienceblogs.com

Legionella in lungs               nalcoeurope.com

Liberty of the Seas                hassocka5489 (via wikemedia commons)