Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Special Kind of Sea Sickness

The tight quarters and thousand person cargos aboard cruise ships make for norovirus’ perfect breeding ground. Yesterday, Princess Cruises announced that their Dawn Princess Ship – set to head from New Zealand to Australia – is the virus’ latest victim. Of the 1,500 aboard the ship, 200 people were found to be sick – showing the classic symptoms of stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The outbreak is on a downward slope, as the ship rapidly put into effect its containment protocol. Unfortunately, they’re probably all old pros at this game by now. Infected passengers were instructed to enter temporary “quarantine” in their cabins until deemed non-contagious, and the ship underwent a thorough clean – disinfecting railings, door handles, and elevator buttons. Moreover, crewmembers were instructed in proper transmission prevention measures – such as effective hand-washing techniques. I wonder, though, if these should be routine efforts in any cruise, as norovirus is a frequent, notorious passenger on many ships. The virus can frequently spread in food and is present in the feces of infected individuals – both of which may be of particular threat on ships. Is food regularly tested for the virus? Does waste management and handling on ships take the virus’ fecal-oral transmission route into account? Identifying the source early on and preventing transmission are critical for promoting future happy sails.

- Emma Rastatter

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