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Cruise Ship Increases Disinfection Efforts after Outbreak of Intestinal Illness

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January 8, 2011

A cruise ship returned to port on Saturday with more than 150 sick passengers, prompting enhanced sanitation efforts aboard ship.

Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas returned to its home port of Tampa, FL on today after a five-night voyage to ports in Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico with 150 of its 2336 passengers suffering from an intestinal illness causing diarrhea and vomiting. Three crewmembers also became ill.

Vamped up cleaning procedures to sanitize the ship delayed the next cruise scheduled to depart tonight.

According to an update on the investigation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Royal Caribbean and its crew have done the following in response to the outbreak:

  • Increased cleaning and disinfection procedures according to their outbreak prevention and response plan,
  • Made announcements to both notify onboard passengers of the outbreak and encourage case reporting
  • Are preparing the ships disembarkation infection barrier plan for arrival in Tampa, FL
  • Submitted to VSP their response and ship disinfection plans
  • Collecting 10 stool specimens for submission to the CDC lab
  • Making twice daily reports of gastrointestinal illness cases to the VSP

Royal Caribbean and its Radiance of the Seas participate in the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), a program with the CDC to prevent and control the introduction, transmission and spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships. Two CDC Vessel Sanitation Program public health inspectors and one epidemiologist will boarded the ship on arrival in Tampa to evaluate the outbreak and response activities.

Actions of the CDCs VSP:

  • inspecting cruise ships, including both periodic, unannounced operational sanitation inspections and scheduled construction inspections;
  • monitoring gastrointestinal illnesses and investigating or responding to outbreaks;
  • training cruise ship employees on public health practices;
  • providing health education and reliable and current public health information to the cruise ship industry, the traveling public, public health professionals, state and local health authorities, and the media.

The CDC last inspected the Radiance of the Seas on June 13, 2010 and the ship had its best inspection score ever, a 100.

“At Royal Caribbean International, we have high health standards for all our guests and crew,” Royal Caribbean said in an update. “Therefore, in an abundance of caution, tomorrow we will conduct some enhanced sanitizing onboard the ship and within the cruise terminal to help prevent any illness from affecting the next sailing.”

Royal Caribbean reminded that, “Norovirus is an extremely common gastrointestinal illness, and only the common cold is more prevalent. According to health specialists, about 300 million people in the world are affected by norovirus every year.”

The company asks anyone who has experienced any gastrointestinal illness within three days of a planned cruise departure to reschedule their cruise.

Norovirus is a highly contagious viral infection sometimes called viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu and food poisoning. It can spread quickly in communal living environments such as cruise ships, daycare centers and nursing facilities. People infected with the norovirus are contagious from the moment they feel ill until as long two weeks after recovery.

Noroviruses are found in the stool and vomit of infected people and can be spread by:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus.
  • Touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth.
  • Having direct contact with an infected person; for example, by exposure to the virus when caring for or when sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils with an infected person.