A local news station in Philadelphia reports on a recent gastrointestinal outbreak on the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas.
ABC-6 reports that a family from Philadelphia returned from a 7-night cruise aboar the Anthem which departed Cape Liberty, New Jersey on Saturday, November 4th. The news stations reports that on the second day of the seven day cruise, "rumors of the virus started circulating . . . and started to spread fast. Workers could be seen spraying the narrow hallways, but it was apparently spreading like wildfire."
A newlywed woman and her husband and several of her family members became ill with symptoms of a gastrointestinal virus.
The family complained to the news stations that "some hand sanitizing stations … didn’t have any sanitizer available to us, there were out of soap at certain sinks, there were no sanitizing stations at the elevators . . the ship’s managers (didn’t take) enough measures to stop the spread of the virus, which is not airborne but rather comes from personal touch with others or germs left on surfaces."
Royal Caribbeaan confirmed that "were a total of 98 reported cases of gastro-intestinal illness symptoms, which represents 1.9 percent of the 4,905 guests and crew onboard."
The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Plan requires cruise ships to send a separate notification when the GI illness count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. Cruise ship outbreak updates are posted on the CDC website only when 3% or more of the passengers and crew report symptoms to the ship informary during the cruise.
Because there were less than than 2% of the passengers and crew members reported ill during the cruise, the CDC will not list the outbreak on its official cruise ship Outbreak Updates page.
A couple of take-aways from this article. First, how many passengers did not dislose their symptoms to the ship doctor?
Secondly, there is no indication that the outbreak is related to norovirus, which cannot be confirmed until there is scientific analysis of the infected passengers’ stool samples, which will not be done because the CDC is not involved.
Thirdly, the local news station is wrong that GI virus outbreaks can’t occur through airborne transmission. Two years ago, in an article titled Norovirus Spreads by Air on Cruise Ships, I discussed that researchers have concluded that norovirus can spread by air, according to a publication in the highly respected Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Finally, don’t call us if you get sick on a cruise. Establising where the virus came from, or that the cruise line was negligent, is virtually impossible to prove, especially since the CDC conducts no epidemiological analysis and sometimes can’t even figure out the source of the outbreak
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