Norovirus Outbreaks On Cruise Ships
By Wendy Perrin
This year the Centers for Disease Control recorded more incidents of norovirus--a highly infectious gastrointestinal illness--on cruise ships than ever before. There were 22 outbreaks in which more than 3% of passengers and crew reported norovirus symptoms. Last year, by comparison, there were 14 such outbreaks.
In the latest Travel Weekly, David Forney, chief of the C.D.C.'s Vessel Sanitation Program, notes that the number of people cruising has gone up so, although the total number of cruise passengers stricken by norovirus has increased significantly, the percentage of sick passengers has not. Forney points out that there are norovirus outbreaks all over the U.S.: in restaurants, nursing homes, daycare centers, etc. Every time a cruise ship comes to the U.S. from a foreign port, it is required by law to report to the C.D.C. how many people have been sick. This means, says Forney, "there is a very strong surveillance and reporting system for the cruise lines that doesn't exist anywhere else in the country." It doesn't exist for airlines because passengers aren't onboard a plane long enough for the airline to track whether they've gotten sick from germs onboard.
For the C.D.C.'s tips on how to protect yourself from illness on a cruise ship, click here.