A good deal of news reports came out this past week regarding the Norovirus, often called the “cruise ship virus.” Holland American Lines shortened a cruise because of an outbreak, the second cruise in succession to be struck on that ship. Websites that are often critical of cruise lines jumped at the chance to put the cruise line in bad light, even remarking that this outbreak won’t be reported or investigated by the CDC. They also pointed out there have been nine outbreaks this year. It’s a true statement. In U.S. courts we swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s because sometimes you can tell the truth but leave out points that tell the whole story.
Holland America Lines made the following statement:
During the 14-day Northern Isle cruise aboard ms Ryndam, roundtrip Harwich that departed June 20, 2015, a high number of guests reported to the infirmary. The pattern of illness strongly suggests the cause is the common virus called Norovirus, which is easily transmitted from person-to-person, especially if meticulous attention is not paid to personal hygiene. Norovirus is currently circulating widely throughout North America. At the first sign of an increase in cases, we immediately initiated enhanced sanitation procedures to interrupt the spread of this virus. This protocol has been developed in coordination with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and includes such measures as thorough disinfection of high-touch surfaces like railings, door handles and elevator buttons; encouraging passengers to use correct hand washing procedures and hand sanitizing gels placed throughout the ship; isolating ill passengers in cabins; and providing regular verbal and written communication to guests about steps they can take to stay well while onboard and safeguard the health of others. We have also been in communication with Public Health England.
To reduce the potential further impact on our guests and crew, the ship will return to Harwich one day early to conduct a thorough sanitation, arriving July 3 rather than July 4. Guests that have scheduled flights post cruise will be provided local hotels for the night.
So it is correct that it’s not reported to the CDC, but that’s because it was reported to Public Health England. Another interesting point overlooked by the “cruises are bad” websites is the comment that “Norovirus is currently circulating widely throughout North America.” A quick look at recent news tells you it is not limited to cruise ships, nor just in North America. This cruise started in the UK, which frequently sees out breaks of Norovirus each winter, but this year are seeing more summer out breaks.
Recently a school was in the news. “A SOUTHAMPTON school struck down by a vomiting bug is likely to be at the centre of a norovirus outbreak, environmental health experts have confirmed to the Daily Echo. It is understood about half of the pupils at Fairisle Infant and Nursery School have been reported sick in the last week after contracting the highly contagious illness.” In May, the Royal Navy training centre in Cornwall reported an outbreak. Total numbers were not given, but the outbreak lasted ten days before the numbers started to fall. Illness lasts two to three days and at its peak, about 70 people were ill. Let’s add a few hotels, The Longmynd Hotel in Church Stretton closed with no numbers given and Angel Hotel in Cardiff after 26 were stricken.
Here is a real shocking headline from the same week as the Ryndam outbreak. France: Norovirus the cause of ‘Mud Day’ outbreak, 1000 sickened. A one day mud racing event traced 1,000 ill out of 8,400 participants. The cause of this one is different from being on a cruise ship, it was determined that the mud the racers were in was contaminated. Looking at U.S. news, at least 96 people were ill with Norovirus from The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar in Charlotte, NC, in early June. You will also see a senior living community in California with a month long out break and guests at a charity dinner in Florida becoming ill. There are many more.
As mentioned in other articles in this website, Norovirus is the most common illness around us. Taking extra precautions on a cruise is wise because of the confined space. Our Hype vs. Fact article is a good place to start learning about this virus.