Norovirus cruising woes

My friend and fellow NC State dude Chris Gunter (below, on the left, exactly as shown) texted me this morning while on his way to Houston. He’s about to embark on a cruise and his ship, The Caribbean Princess, was linked to 173 norovirus illnesses this week. According to Ben Souza of the appropriately named CruiseFever.net, Chris’ cruise is delayed while the good folks at the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program do an investigation.1014303_10102397059410553_886550941_n

There has been a confirmed norovirus outbreak on the Caribbean Princess.  Out of the 3102 passengers on board, 162 (5%) have reported ill in addition to 11 crew members.  The cruise ship will return to Houston one day early and arrive on January 31 due to a fog advisory.

When the ship returns to Houston, Texas, 2 CDC Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officers will board the ship for a health assessment.  They will evaluate the outbreak and collect specimens for testing at the CDC lab.

One thing that popped up in the coverage of this week’s other cruise disaster, 600+ norovirus illnesses linked to the Explorer of the Sea, was the apparent focus on hand sanitizer as a control measure. According to passenger Claudia Cirisi, the stuff was everywhere.

“There were a lot of people in the bathroom getting sick and they had hand sanitizers all over, and you were constantly washing your hands. You couldn’t go into the dining rooms without having some Purell. They were washing down the railings; they were washing down the seats after you got out from the pool. They were washing anything that came in contact with the passengers”

While hand sanitizer that can be purchased at drugstores has its uses, reducing norovirus spread isn’t one of them. Pretty much all retail-available hand sanitizers suck when it comes to reducing norovirus viability. Same with the alcohol-containing wipes. Maybe what’s being used on board is a different formulation, but seeing some data would be nice.

This entry was posted in Food Safety Culture, Norovirus and tagged , , by Ben Chapman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.