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Hundreds of passengers struck with Norovirus on two cruise ships

By Arthur Weinreb     Feb 5, 2012 in Travel
Two cruise ships, Crown Princess and Ruby Princess, returned to Florida from the Caribbean after hundreds of passengers became ill with severe gastroenteritis.
Although several media sources put the number of stricken passengers at 200, CBC is quoting reports that say 484 vacationers were made ill by the Norovirus on the two ships.
According to the Miami Herald, Crown Princess arrived at Port Everglades, Florida, Saturday morning. Ruby Princess is expected to dock in Florida today.
The Norovirus triggers gastroenteritis and is highly contagious. It is spread from person to person and can be spread on items that have been touched by more than one person, such as food. Touching an area that someone with the virus has recently touched can also cause the infection to spread.
Symptoms of the infection include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and muscle aches. Those who are very young, very old, and those with immune system deficiencies are particularly vulnerable. The symptoms usually last between two and three days.
According to MSNBC, all cases must be reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. A special report must be prepared and sent to the CDC if the number of passengers stricken with the virus exceeds 2% of the total number of people on board. Both ships have exceeded the 2% level; almost 3% of passengers on Ruby Princess fell ill while the percentage of Crown Princess passengers that contracted the virus exceeded 11%.
Both cruise ships will have to undergo rigorous cleaning procedures before they will be able to embark for their next cruise.
While the Nirovirus can be found in hospitals and other places, it is usually associated with cruise ships. As the CDC points out, this is because mandatory reporting leads to outbreaks on cruise ships being reported more quickly. As well, the confined nature of a cruise ships with close living quarters makes it easier for the virus to spread.
The outbreak on the two Princess ships comes less than a month after the Italian cruise ship, Costa Concordia, ran aground off the coast of Giglio. Seventeen people died and another 15 are missing and presumed dead.
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