Passengers aboard a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship have fallen ill with symptoms consistent with norovirus on an approximately two week trans-Atlantic cruise that departed from Civitevecchia, Italy on November 3rd and arrived today in Tampa, Florida.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the November 3 – 18 cruise aboard the Oosterdam sickened 86 of 1,843 passengers (4.67%) and 18 of 796 crew members (2.26%) who exhibited symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.
The link to the CDC about this outbreak is here. There has been no official determination of the cause of the outbreak although norovirus is suspected.
According to the CDC and the FDA, the most common cause of norovirus is contaminated food or water. Of course, like land-based restaurants, ill food handlers often transmit the virus. Passengers can also obviously bring the disease aboard which can spread due to unhygienic conditions caused either by the passengers and/or the cruise line.
Before there can be a scientific determination as to the actual cause of the outbreak, there must first be a serious epidemiology assessment of the ship which the CDC rarely performs due to the quick turn-around of the cruise ship. Unfortunately, in this case HAL immediately argued that norovirus is allegedly "circulating throughout North America and can be easily transmitted if personal hygiene is not maintained," according to a statement that it released to the Tampa Bay Times.
The CDC says that there have been 13 GI outbreaks this year, mostly involving norovirus with two e-coli outbreaks.
The cruise ship says that it performed enhanced cleaning and left today for the Caribbean.
Photo credit: Sebastian Wessels wikipedia / commons, CC BY 2.5.