The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that three Holland America Line cruise ships have reported gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on five recent sailings. Of the five sailings, only one has been a confirmed case of norovirus.
The three cruise ships and sailings that reported the GI outbreaks are ms Volendam (July 12-19, 19-26), ms Noordam (July 23-30, July 30-August 6), and Nieuw Amsterdam (July 22-29).
Cruise lines are required to report to the CDC anytime more than 3% of the passengers and crew members report symptoms of diarrheal disease to the ship’s medical staff during the cruise.
Of the five reported outbreaks, only the July 23 sailing on ms Noordam saw a number significantly higher than 3%. On that sailing, 167 passengers (8.02%) and 6 crew members reported being ill at some point during the cruise.
The GI cases reported are totals for the entire voyage and do not represent the number of active (symptomatic) gastrointestinal cases at any given port of call or at disembarkation.
It is still unknown what caused the outbreaks on four of the sailings. The only confirmed norovirus outbreak was the July 12 sailing on ms Volendam. The predominant symptoms were vomiting and diarrhea.
In response to illness outbreaks, the cruise line reported the following actions:
- Increasing cleaning and disinfection procedures according to their outbreak prevention and response plan.
- Collecting stool specimens from passenger and crew gastrointestinal illness cases for testing.
- Making daily reports of gastrointestinal illness cases to VSP.
The best ways to keep the norovirus from spreading on cruise ships is to wash your hands before and after you eat. It is also a good idea to wash your hands before and after you leave your cabin and to stay away from the buffet. While cruise ships do have hand sanitizer available, it does little to stop viruses like the norovirus and often gives a false hope of cleanliness to passengers.
Norovirus is extremely contagious and is easily spread in confined places like cruise ships, schools, dormitories, and hospitals. It is the second most common illness after the common cold.
Photo Credit: Bob Nicolescu via Wiki Creative Commons