If youâ€™ve ever been concerned about norovirus on cruise ships, youâ€™re not alone. With so many reports of norovirus on cruise ships, as recent at November 2007, more and more potential cruise passengers are seeking information and advice about this virus that seems to affect cruise ships so often. The most recent outbreak occurred on a seven-day Hawaiian Islands cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Lineâ€™s Pride of Hawaii in November 2007. More than 200 passengers were infected with the norovirus out of the 2,500 passengers on board. So what caused this outbreak and so many others? And, what exactly is norovirus?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) norovirus, originally called Norwalk-Like Virus (NLV), is the most common cause of non-bacterial gastrointestinal infections such as the stomach flu or gastroenteritis, in the U.S. Noroviruses are sometimes called caliciviruses or â€œsmall round structured viruses.â€? They are not affected by treatment with antibiotics and they cannot grow outside a personâ€™s body. Symptoms of norovirus typically occur within 24-48 hours after ingestion of the virus but they can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure.
The CDC states that norovirus is found in the stool or vomit of infected people. It can be spread by eating or drinking liquids that are contaminated with the norovirus; touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth; or having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms. For instance, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill. Infected persons will feel ill and vomit several times a day â€“ children vomit much, much more, but they (and all others) tend to get better within 1-2 days, especially if fluids are continuously being replaced by drinking juice or water. This means that the virus is not fatal, just extremely unpleasant, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. Other symptoms may include diarrhea, stomach cramping, low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, nausea, and tiredness.
There are several reasons norovirus on cruise ships is so common: close living quarters may increase the amount of group contact or new passenger arrivals may bring the virus to other passengers and crew. It can also occur through unsanitary practices by staff — meaning not washing their hands before preparing food.
Norovirus on ships, and other places where it is common such as nursing homes, restaurants, and catered events, can be prevented in several ways:
Â·Frequently washing hands, especially after bathroom visits, changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
Â·Carefully washing fruits and vegetables, and steaming seafood such as oysters before eating them.
Â·Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
Â·The immediate removal and washing of clothing or linens that may be contaminated with the norovirus after an episode of illness, using hot water and soap.
Â·By flushing or discarding any vomit and/or waste in the commode, and making sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
For more information about norovirus on cruise ships, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.