Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Cruise Bug Bites!

There was trouble in paradise last week - a Norovirus outbreak during a seven day cruise around the Hawaiian Islands on the Pride of Hawaii. The virus hit at least 225 of the roughly 2500 passengers on the ship.

Norovirus (formerly known as Norwalk-like virus) has developed over the last several years into a major headache for cruise lines, hotels, nursing homes and any other places where large numbers of people congregate. It is spread by direct or indirect contact from an infected individual, and can survive for a long time on surfaces such as handrails and doorknobs. Victims of Norovirus usually suffer from vomiting, diarrhea and/or cramps.

While the only cure for a Norovirus infection is to survive it, there are things you can do to minimize the risk of becoming a victim of this virus if you are spending time in a public place such as a hotel or a cruise ship.

  1. Wash your hands carefully and frequently with soap and hot water, especially after touching a surface that might have been touched by other people (such as a doorknob, elevator button or handrail) and before eating or touching your face.
  2. If you are planning a cruise, check out the sanitation inspection history of the cruise line and the specific ship, if you can. Ships that call at U.S. ports are inspected twice yearly by the CDC under their Vessel Sanitation Program. The detailed results of these inspections are available on the CDC web site.
  3. If you are on a cruise and you are told that a Norovirus outbreak is in progress, follow all of the instructions you are given. The staff will be trying to contain the outbreak, and your cooperation might make the difference between getting sick and enjoying the balance of your cruise.

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