It’s the holiday season and many in the US are taking holidays to warmer destinations. Sadly, norovirus can tag along to take in the sights.
According to the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), the federal entity that works with the cruise lines to prevent and contain gastrointestinal illness on US passenger ships, a total of 310 out of 4,160 passengers (about 7.5%) and 23 of the 1,398 crew aboard the Independence of the Seas took till with norovirus on last week’s cruise.
The ship left port in Miami last Monday, December 11, and a couple of days into its Caribbean voyage passengers started reporting that they were sick. Five days ago and halfway into the cruise, Royal Caribbean sent out a letter to the passengers explaining the possible presence of a norovirus outbreak, and when extra cleanings would take place.
As is common in these events, the cruise line increased their cleaning and disinfection procedures on board, urged those with symptoms to visit the ship’s medical facility, and worked with the VSP to collect and test stool samples from sick individuals. The ship returned on Saturday and left later that afternoon, though according to the VSP website the company did delay starting the next cruise to bring in additional sanitation staff and have more time to implement control measures.
Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships are actually very rare (only around 1-2% of all of the norovirus outbreaks in the US happen on cruise ships). However, due to the number of people on the ships and the many shared spaces and surfaces, it’s not hard to see how a single sick person could quickly spread the virus to others.
We will update this story if more information becomes available.