Unfortunately, Norovirus outbreaks are becoming more common on cruise ships as well as locations on land such as schools, daycare centers, nursing homes and other places with a large group of people in a confined space. The virus normally causes vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain and is spread through contact with stool or vomit from an infected person. On cruise ships, it is believed that the virus is spread through food or liquids that have been contaminated or from touching contaminated surfaces.
Knowing that touching contaminated areas or items can spread norovirus is critical to avoiding infection when on a cruise ship. In common areas of the ship avoid touching handrails, elevator buttons, and especially the doorknobs entering and exiting the restrooms. Even tables and armrests on lounge chairs can be contaminated and cause you to become ill.
It can also be a good idea to avoid the buffet line. The community serving utensils are a very common surface for the spread of contagions such as Norovirus. Germs can also grow and spread more rapidly on the buffet tables when the food is not maintained at the proper temperature. If cold food begins to get warm or hot foods cool to only a warm temperature, there is a higher risk of germs.
Hand washing is critical when these stomach type ailments are present on a cruise. Medical professionals recommend scrubbing for 20 seconds and rinsing with hot water. It is also recommended that as soon as you enter your cabin, you wash your hands. This will help to avoid contaminating any hard surfaces in the cabin that are not cleaned as frequently as the common areas of the ship.
You never know when there is going to be an outbreak when you are traveling, so it is always best to be well prepared. Packing a pump bottle of hand sanitizer for your bathroom is always a good idea. In addition, pack a pocket-sized hand sanitizer for each person in your travel party. These can be refilled from your larger pump bottle which is more economical than buying a large number of small bottles. In addition, packing a good supply of individually packaged hand sanitizer wipes is also wise. These can be used anywhere and are also handy to offer to a seatmate on a plane or other passengers on the ship.
Taking every precaution to avoid contamination might not be how you wanted to spend your vacation, but it is certainly better than spending your trip alone and sick in your cabin.