Blame the consumer – norovirus on cruise lines edition

The first official norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship this year, according to Jim Walker of Cruise Law News, involved the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Norwegian Star. 

The outbreak occurred during a cruise from January 5-19, 2014. The virus sickened 130 of 2318 cruise passenger (5.61%) and 12 of 1039 crew members vomit cruise(1.15%).  You can read the CDC report here.

The CDC concluded that the virus in question which sickened the 142 or so people was norovirus. This was the “causative factor” in CDC parlance. The CDC can usually figure out the “causative factor” and most of the time norovirus is the culprit. But I have never seen a CDC report in the last 10 or 15 years where the CDC figured out how the norovirus came aboard the cruise ship.

The cruise lines always blame the passengers. Sometimes the blame is direct with a cruise line public relations representative pointing the finger at their guests. Sometimes it is more subtle with no blame assessment but in the form of “passengers-need-to-wash-their-hands” type of admonishment. 

Determining the cause of a norovirus outbreak is a scientific process to be made by epidemiologists and doctors, not cruise line PR people.

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, 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.

700 sick; cruise ship passengers recall days of misery

I hope things go better for my parents as they depart from Ft. Lauderdale tomorrow; but controlling norovirus isn’t just hope, there is some science that cruise lines can use.

Unfortunately science often runs up against economics.

Passengers aboard a cruise ship on which hundreds fell ill recalled days of misery being holed up in their rooms as the Explorer of the Seas returned to its home port Wednesday after a Caribbean trip cut short by an outbreak of stomach flu.

Retiree Bill Rakowicz, 61, from the city of St. Thomas in Ontario, Canada, said he thought he was just seasick when he began suffering from vomiting, pain and diarrhea caused by vomit cruisethe suspected norovirus outbreak that sickened nearly 700 passengers and crew.

“Then I went out of my room and saw people with gloves and people sick everywhere,” he said.

He said he had the symptoms for five days starting Jan. 22, the day after the ship departed Bayonne. “It was awful. You feel like you want to give in,” he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said its latest count puts the number of those sickened at 630 passengers and 54 crew members. The ship, on a 10-day cruise that had to be cut short, was carrying 3,050 passengers.

Health investigators suspect norovirus, but lab results are not expected until later this week. If norovirus is to blame, it would be one of the largest norovirus outbreaks in last 20 years, the CDC said. A 2006 norovirus outbreak on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship also sickened close to 700.

Pukefest aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas

How could I resist that headline, as my parents head for Florida for a cruise?

Cruise Law News reports there is an outbreak of gastrointestinal sickness of a large percentage of cruise passengers aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas cruise ship.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that 281 passengers (9.21% of total passengers) are suffering from norovirus type vomit cruiseof symptoms. The symptoms include vomiting, nausea, headaches and diarrhea.

The pro-cruise site Cruise Critic calls the problem a “small outbreak” but the truth is that 9% is a high percentage.  It is not unusual for passengers not to report the illness in order to avoid being quarantined in the cabin or for crew members who rely on tips to keep working after they are ill. The total numbers are often under-reported. In addition to sick passengers, 22 crew members are reportedly ill according to the CDC. The CDC website states that an environmental health officer and an epidemiologist will board the ship in St. Thomas, USVI on January 26, 2014 to conduct an epidemiologic investigation. 

Norovirus on a cruise ship: a first-person story

Cruise Law News has this first-person account of how nasty norovirus can be – this time on the Celebrity Summit cruise ship.

We too were on the Summit recently. We reported how dirty our Royal Suite was. They said they cleaned it, but the only evidence was that they used epoxy on the dining area parkay floor. The smell was horrendous.

I had allergic reaction tongue swelled, face, nose, eyelids and had hives on face and upper body. The doctor on call would not acknowledge this chicken_4 vomit cruiseand commenced to tell me that I was having an allergic reaction to blood pressure and cholesterol medications I have been on for years. He told me to stop taking these medications and he filled new prescriptions together with benedryl. They put in an IV to rehydrate me two times.

At the end of the cruise I was taken off the ship in a wheelchair. I had been sick the entire second week. Our butler was under orders to charge us for all the bottle water we needed. They clean the suite with a dirty rag and some kind of spray they use in all the rooms and hallways. It’s disgusting! You wouldn’t use someone else’s used tissue. How sanitary is that?

They charged our ship account $600 for the doctor and pills (that I didn’t use except for the benedryl). When we questioned the charge even though we had bought the travel insurance, the Concierge said we “must read the fine print.” Three days after my allergic reaction, my disabled husband got the norovirus. Through all of this the doctor refused to come to our suite. They said we needed to come to the doctor office.

This trip was from hell!

Passengers on Queen Mary 2 struck down by norovirus outbreak

Maybe these cruise ships should engage in “special, enhanced cleaning procedures” before a norovirus outbreak.

At least eight people are sick out of the 2,462 passengers on board luxury Southampton liner, Queen Mary 2 but that number download vomit cruiseshould grow.

A total of 130 of 778 passengers have contracted gastroenteritis on board a cruise ship now docked in Rosyth in Fife.

They became ill on Fred Olsen’s Black Watch during a 12-night Scandinavia and St Petersburg cruise.

Meanwhile, Princess Cruises has been forced to pay out more than £120,000 in compensation payments in two separate legal cases.

The line’s owner Carnival Corp., agreed to pay more than £100,000 to 48 passengers who got sick on Grand Princess on a number of Mediterranean cruises in 2010.

And in a separate incident on Sea Princess cruise in the Caribbean, Princess paid £20,000 to a passenger who contracted Legionnaire’s Disease in 2011.

In neither incident did Princess admit liability, both were settled to avoid protracted litigation and lawyers’ fees, according to the line.

Fancy food ain’t safe food – cruise ship edition

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a report documenting the unsanitary conditions that led to one of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships failing a health inspection last month.

The report on the surprise inspection of Silversea Cruises’ 382-passenger Silver Shadow says inspectors found raw, cooked and love.boat.cyclosporaready-to-eat foods improperly stored under the cabin beds of crew members who worked in the ship’s galley.

Food also was stored on the floors of crew cabins, as was equipment used to prepare food for passengers such as a meat slicer and serving trays, the report says.

The report suggests crew members of the ship had sought to hide the food items and equipment from inspectors after they boarded the ship.

“An organized effort was made to physically remove over 15 full trolleys of dry foods, spices, canned foods, cooked foods, milk, raw meats, pasteurized eggs, cheeses of all types, baking goods, raw fruits, raw vegetables, and a variety of both hand held and counter model food equipment, pans, dishware and utensils to over 10 individual cabins shared by two or three galley crew members in order to avoid inspection,” the report notes.

In what is a rare occurrence for modern day vessels, the CDC gave the ship — an all-suite icon of luxury cruising that boasts rooms for two starting at over $1,000 a night — a failing score of 82 out of 100.

The report also listed a number of cases of crew members suffering from diarrhea that were not properly reported, and errors in the cooling process for the walk-in refrigeration of the La Terraza restaurant that suggests food may have been improperly stored.

‘Scared of being covered in poop’ norovirus continues to plague cruise ships

As yet another cruise ship returns reeking of barf, some bad musicians are canceling their latest pay check.

Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty told VH-1 on Thursday that he’ll hire a helicopter to get himself off the Carnival Imagination if it loses power on the Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twentythree-night Matchbox Twenty Cruise, which kicks off Dec 6.

“I’m scared of being covered in poop. To anybody that’s on that cruise, I just wanna apologize now because if something like that happens, I’m getting outta there. I’m gonna get helicoptered out. I’m gonna leave you behind like I don’t know your name.”

Friday, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship arrived in Port Everglades with an outbreak of norovirus on board The Vision of the Seas. Royal Caribbean hasn’t commented on the disease outbreak yet, but passengers said more than 200 passengers had to be quarantined due to the outbreak.

Cruise workers breaking the rules on norovirus reporting?

My parents just returned from a cruise out of eastern Florida. No reports of barfing.

But Contact 5 Investigators in West Palm Beach are asking, could cruise ship workers be putting you at risk?

NewsChannel 5 searched through hundreds of inspection reports for every cruise ship that comes in and out of U.S. ports and discovered passengers can spread the norovirus, but who’s watching out for the 

vomit-cruise-226x300crew members?

Inspection reports for a cruise over the last year on the Carnival Freedom show a butcher got sick on board back in June and didn’t tell the on board doctor until the next day.  Plus, they claim he continued working while having symptoms.

If you’d like to look up medical reporting problems for any ship, click here.

It was a similar case for a waiter back in January. Reports show the worker was “given a warning. ”

Inspectors with the Centers for Disease Control say workers are required to report an illness right away. Plus, food workers are supposed to be isolated for at least two days, but that’s not always happening.

The Contact 5 Investigators checked on about 170 ships that come in and out of U.S. ports. Fifty nine of those ships had workers that didn’t report the illness properly, according to inspection reports. There was a total of 130 workers from waiters, to bartenders, to workers who wash the dishes.

Inspection reports for the Allure of the Seas show a café attendant worked the day she was sick and “broke medical isolation” to go to the laundry room and to the ship’s café.

On the Freedom of the Seas, a worker who cleans the ship had diarrhea and stomach cramps but didn’t report it until 12 hours later and continued cleaning.

The Centers for Disease Control is in charge of inspecting cruise ships at least once a year while they’re docked at a port.

“If you have a food worker who’s ill who’s working with food, that’ a common, really a classic way to transmit illness,” said Captain Jaret Ames, Chief of CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program

“It’s absolutely wrong and it’s absolutely a famous way to make people sick,” said Captain Ames.

barfboat: UK passengers describe hell of ‘vomit-strewn corridors’

Furious passengers today spoke out about their ‘holiday from hell’ on the ‘plague ship’ as they stumbled ashore today after a 10-day cruise ruined by an unprecedented outbreak of norovirus.

The Mail Online reports holidaymakers demanded refunds as they disembarked in Southampton, Hampshire – but shockingly, the P&O ship was preparing to take to the seas again within hours, at 8pm this evening.

Passengers are expected to start checking in from 3pm for a 23-night trip to Portugal, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, Israel, Greece and Sicily.

Large parts of the ship were closed off to avoid the virus spreading further and passengers were quarantined as many were sick in corridors, theatres and restaurants.

Those who fell ill were ordered to stay in their cabins and miss stop offs as the crew battled to contain the highly contagious virus, which also causes diarrhea.

Angry cruise-trippers today spoke out about the nightmare journey on P&O’s Oriana and the foolishness of taking the boat back out again so soon.

Those on board said the epidemic spread quickly, with some travellers unable to report their sickness because staff reportedly stopped them from leaving the ship at its ports of call.

More crew were sent to join the ship to help with the containment and cleaning.

Passengers claim there was a lack of food and toilet paper following the outbreak of the vomiting bug, while others say they are still waiting for their laundry to be returned to them.

 The virus engulfed the liner but crew tried to blame passengers for bringing it on board.

Chris Meadows, from Southampton, who attended a crisis meeting at the height of the outbreak, said the liner’s captain Thomas Lane admitted to passengers that the crew ‘could not cope’.

‘We had a show of hands of how many people were affected, which was filmed by many of the passengers that attended the meeting.’

The luxury liner’s owners Carnival UK have offered to waive fees for anyone who had to visit the on-board doctor.