Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Norovirus, Not Just For Cruise Passengers

After seeing news reports of Norovirus sickening hundreds of passengers and even cutting cruises short so that ships could be deep cleaned to avoid spreading the virus to passengers on subsequent sailings, back in February we looked at the question, Is Your Cruise Ship Sick?

From personal experience I can relate that having Norovirus is no fun. I've come down with it twice, but wasn't near a cruise ship either time. In both instances, I had been shopping and probably touched a surface, such as a counter or the handle on a grocery cart, that had been touched by someone who was infected. For more information on Norovirus—what it is and how to avoid it—follow the link above.

Christine Duffy, President and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), explains it even further in the following statement that puts Nororvirus in perspective relative to it being called "the cruise ship disease":
"The recent release of a report on norovirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores what the cruise industry has known and communicated for a long time: The occurrence of norovirus on cruise ships is rare and it is dramatically lower than the number of incidents of this common illness on land.

Norovirus is often referred to as a "stomach bug" and the symptoms typically last between 24 and 48 hours. It is second only to the common cold in terms of its prevalence and is generally not considered a serious illness. According to the CDC, there are about 20 million cases of norovirus annually on land in the U.S. Americans have about a 1 in 15 chance of getting norovirus even if they never step foot on a cruise ship.

Now, let's look at the record of the cruise industry. In 2013, 10.1 million people embarked on a cruise from a U.S. port. There were four norovirus outbreaks involving about 834 total passengers. That amounts to approximately 1 in 12,000 passengers, compared to 1 in 15 people who get norovirus on land every year.

In my opinion, the CDC report confirms that the cruise industry's relentless focus on keeping ships clean and safe is working to keep passengers healthy. The process starts even before a ship leaves port with the screening of passengers for any illnesses they may have contracted on land. Passengers are also reminded to wash hands regularly, just as people should do on land, and hand sanitizers are located throughout a ship for convenience. If someone does become ill, cruise ships have physicians and nurses on hand to treat them.

Cruising is the only sector of the hospitality industry that works directly with the CDC to proactively monitor and report cases of norovirus, even though incidents are rare on cruise ships. The industry does this in order to collaborate with the CDC on how to continuously improve prevention and response.

Sensationalized news stories about norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships simply do not line up with the facts. The latest CDC report provides strong evidence that cruise lines are going to great lengths to protect the health of passengers—and succeeding."

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