Sick crew members aboard cruise ships contributing to spread of Norovirus

Norovirus-Sick-Crew-MembersEach year, more than 2,000 people on board cruise ships leaving the entering the U.S. contract Norovirus. Thousands more contract some other form of viral infection and according to a recent report, many times the cruise liner’s crew are to blame for spreading the illness.

WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., reports that many cruise lines docking in Florida hire employees who fail to report any illness or symptoms of an illness they may be experiencing. On board most cruise ships, employees who get sick are usually required to spend at least a day or two in medical isolation so as to prevent the spread of their symptoms to other employees and cruise passengers. They’re also required to report their symptoms immediately to medical staff on board the ship.

Norovirus infections affect thousands of passengers aboard cruise ships every year and its symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are enough to ruin any vacation. Based on this report that combed federal inspection records for its data, many passengers likely can blame a sick crew member for the illness.  The report found numerous instances where employees on board cruise ships violated Center for Disease Control and Prevention rules by not immediately reporting their illness. 

About 170 ship’s inspection records were checked on vessels that docked in Florida in the last year. On board 59 of them, violations of the required reporting of illness laws were broken. A total of 130 employees had gotten sick on board those cruises and not reported their illness in the required time period. For example, according to the report, a butcher aboard the Carnival Freedom boat got sick on a cruise in June of last year. He did not report his illness to staff on the ship until the next day and reportedly worked through the day, contacting food that would be eaten by passengers and others aboard the ship. A waiter on the same vessel in January also didn’t report his illness and served a dinner later that day.

Norovirus is easily spread among people and poor hygiene, especially among the sick, is a prime way to spread the virus. Any surface can easily become infected if a person who’s sick contacts it and doesn’t sterilize it afterward. On board a cruise ship in the middle of its journey, passengers should feel lucky to avoid contracting the illness. Some outbreaks of illness have grounded some cruises altogether, forcing passengers to return home early.

The report cites CDC data indicating that there were 14 reported outbreaks of Norovirus last year on cruise ships. At least 230 crew members and nearly 2,400 passengers were affected.

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