Researchers in Europe, Japan, New Zealand and the U.S. have detected a new variation of norovirus which emerged last year. The virus was and remains particularly prevalent in the United Kingdom where norovirus sickened over 1,000,000 people. The virus was tracked back to Australia and has spread to a number of countries, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) documented the new mutant virus to have entered the U.S. last fall.
The researchers’ findings and conclusions are set forth in a publication "Indications For Worldwide Increased Norovirus Activity Associated With Emergence of a New Variant of Genotype II.4, Late 2012." The new virus has been labeled "Sydney 2012."
An article in Bloomberg explains that this virus has posed a problem for cruise lines late last year and will continue to plague the cruise industry this year. In "Sydney Vomiting Bug Poses Risk for Cruise-Line Passengers," Jason Gale explains that "new epidemics of acute gastro often emerge on cruise ships, where control is hindered by close living quarters and shared dining areas."
Gale writes that cruise ships carrying sick passengers have docked in New York and Florida the past three weeks, "heralding a new wave of infections for which there is no specific treatment or vaccine." The article cites a professor of microbiology in Australia, Peter White, who says: “Cruise ships are almost a sentinel sensing system for norovirus. Norovirus is going to wreak havoc in their cruise industry for the next year while this new strain gets a grip.”
Last month we wrote about Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 sailing into New York from the U.K. with several hundred passengers and crew members sickened with norovirus, Princess Cruises’ Emerald Princess docking in Fort Lauderdale with over 200 ill passengers and crew, and the Princess Crown Princess arriving in Galveston from Europe with hundreds puking from noro.
The researchers are quoted saying: “Cruise ship holidays create an environment in which norovirus is easily spread and outbreaks readily occur." Professor White, who identified the new mutation, refers to cruise ship passengers and says: “It’s almost impossible for them to protect themselves against a norovirus outbreak once it occurs. The only way you could do it would be to stay in your cabin the whole time and not go out.”
Photo credit: Bsip/Photoshot/UPPA/Zuma Press via Bloomberg