The New York Times just published two articles regarding outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships and the unsanitary condition of cruise ship bathrooms. The article are entitled "Study Ties Restrooms to Illnesses on Cruises" and "When Illness Spoils the Cruise Vacation."
The Times is finally reporting on a study reported in the Clinical Infectious Disease Journal over a month ago regarding why norovirus infection outbreaks occur frequently on cruise ships. I wrote on the topic first in a blog " Cruise Ship Norovirus – Clean the Damn Toilets!"
The Times is the first major newspaper to write about this study, which contradicts the cruise industry’s PR campaign which portrays their cruise ships as super clean. The hand-sanitizers the cruise ship use are not going to prevent the outbreak of norovirus.
One of the authors of the study, Dr. Philip C. Carling, explains that norovirus can survive for weeks on surfaces at room temperature, and it is difficult to kill. “It’s a tough virus. It isn’t killed by alcohol hand rubs. Chlorine bleach is the only thing that works.”
Cruise ships have been called "floating biological islands," a phrase coined by Emory University’s Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky who is a specialist in infectious diseases and travel medicine. The outbreak of infectious disease is not uncommon if you have several thousand passengers spending a week together, using the same buffet utensils and handling the same bathroom doorknobs.
If you get sick on a cruise ship, don’t expect great medical care. A decade ago, the New York Times published a well researched report on the problems with cruise ship medical treatment. Authored by Douglas Franz, the article is entitled " Sovereign Islands – A Special Report – Getting Sick on the High Seas: A Question of Accountability."
The article explains the same problems which exist today.
Contracting an infectious disease and needing urgent medical care on a cruise ship is doubly hazardous to your health.
November 18, 2009 Update:
A number of other news organizations are finally addressing the expert report by the researchers at the Infectious Disease Journal. ABC, MSNBC and Rueters all released articles. Reuter’s article is entilted "Beware of Cruise Ships’ Public Restrooms." It shows a photograph of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas which had dozens of passengers with swine flu among its 5,000 passengers and crewmembers in July of this year.
November 11, 2014 Update: Breaking News! Cruise passengers are now permitted to sue the cruise lines for medical negligence. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that cruise lines are no longer permitted to assert an "immunity defense" when their ship doctors and nurses commit medical malpractice. Read: 11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines’ Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims. Contact us for further information.
Cartoon drawing Maxim magazine
Voyager of the Seas Eric Gaillard / Reuters