Princess Cruises ship Caribbean Princess has returned to port early after at least 245 people developed Norovirus. The ship was on a 14-day excursion when at least 228 passengers developed the gastrointestinal illness. More than a dozen crew members also report being ill. Cruise ship illness outbreaks like this are more than uncomfortable for passengers and crew. Unfortunately, it seems like cruise ship injury and illness are increasingly common.
Gastrointestinal Illness Outbreak
Passengers and crew onboard the Caribbean Princess were expecting to enjoy a cruise to the Caribbean, Costa Rica and the Panama Canal. Instead, they enjoyed just a short trip and then a return to Port Everglades in Fort. Lauderdale, Florida.
The gastrointestinal illness spread quickly among passengers. According to a Fox News report, tests done by the ships medical team confirmed that the outbreak was caused by Norovirus. The medical team treated ill passengers and crew, and put precautions in place to prevent additional spread. Precautions included crew members serving passengers and not allowing them open access to food, even in the buffet areas.
Once the ship returned to port, a sanitation team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) boarded the ship to investigate the cause of the outbreak. The CDC team also conducted a thorough cleaning of the ship.
Second Round of Cruise Ship Illness for Caribbean Princess
This is the second time this year that the Caribbean Princess has returned to port early due to a gastrointestinal illness outbreak. In February 2020, at least 371 people became ill with a gastrointestinal illness. On that trip, the ship was denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago, and was sent back to Florida.
During the February gastrointestinal illness outbreak, Princess Cruises defended their health and safety measures and assured passengers that they were working with the CDC. This announcement came at the same time that the Diamond Princess (also owned by Princess Cruises) was quarantined off the coast of Japan due to Coronavirus.
Both outbreaks onboard the Caribbean Princess have been gastrointestinal in nature. They are not related to Coronavirus. Even so, many travelers are now questioning the safety of cruise ships, especially amid concerns about the spread of Coronavirus.
What is Norovirus?
Norovirus is a highly contagious type of virus that causes severe gastrointestinal illness. In most cases, the cause of Norovirus is contaminated food or water. People who are contaminated can then spread the bacteria. Norovirus is transmissible through:
- Person-to-person contact
- Consuming food or water that has the bacteria
- Touching surfaces that contain the bacteria
According to the CDC, people who are infected can “shed” billions of particles, meaning that a small illness can quickly turn into a full-blown outbreak. Cruise ships are an excellent breeding ground for the bacteria since there are a lot of people in close quarters who may share the same tables or utensils, participate in the same activities and use the same railings, elevators or doors.
How to Prevent Norovirus
Because Norovirus spreads so easily, it is important for anyone concerned about the infection to know how best to prevent it. If you are planning to travel on a cruise ship, or if you are particularly concerned about the bacteria, here are some tips from the CDC:
- Practice good hand hygiene. The CDC recommends washing your hands:
- After using the toilet or changing a diaper
- Before preparing or handling food
- Before eating prepared food
- After handling raw fruit, vegetables or meat
- Before you give yourself or someone else medication
- If you cannot wash your hands with soap and warm water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Practice good food safety. Remember the following about Norovirus:
- Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly
- Cook meat and seafood thoroughly
- Norovirus can withstand heat up to 145 degrees
- Norovirus can withstand quick steaming
- Any food that may contain Norovirus bacteria should be thrown away
- Anyone who is sick should stay away from food preparation areas
- Keep food preparation areas clean. Disinfect surfaces immediately after handling raw fruit, vegetables or meat.
- The CDC recommends cleaning household surfaces with bleach first, then with soap and hot water.
- Any clothing that may contain vomit or feces should be washed with hot water and detergent. Wash them on the longest cycle, and dry them on high heat.
While these tips are relevant for Norovirus, they are also applicable for general health and wellness. Good food safety and hygiene practices can help you avoid illnesses caused by bacteria or viruses. Remember these tips if you are planning to take a cruise, or if you just want to make sure your family is safe at home.
Have Questions about a Cruise Ship Illness?
As a passenger on a cruise ship you have certain rights. That includes the right to a safe and healthy environment. If you suffer harm due to an illness or injury while onboard, you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries and any related financial losses. You can find out more about cruise ships and your legal rights by calling Maritime Injury Guide. Our legal professionals will help you understand your legal rights and determine if you have an actionable claim for compensation.