U.S. health officials boarded the Explorer yesterday while it was docked in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, to investigate possible cruise norovirus outbreak which has sickened 564 of 3,050 passengers, 47 of 1,165 crew members. Royal Caribbean cruise is expected to end early.
Explorer of the Seas stopped part way during 10-days voyage from Cape Liberty to the Caribbean St. Maarten island. An elevated number of crew members and passengers with gastrointestinal illness was experienced, but the good news is that the affected had responded well to the medication over-the-counter administered onboard ship.
Royal Caribbean officials declared to have taken action which included increasing disinfection procedures as well as preparing new members of the crew to join mid-voyage. They apologized for the disruption to their guests’ cruise vacation and stated that the right thing to do was to bring their guests home early and sanitize the ship more thoroughly.
Norovirus is gut bug, extremely fast-moving, which typically spread by contaminated food, water, or infected people. Norovirus outbreak is the most common reason for acute gastroenteritis in U.S., that resulted in 21 million illnesses, 71,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths.
The norovirus lingers on surfaces, spreads very easily. Meticulous environmental cleaning and handwashing with soap and hot water can help stop it spread.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated it was not yet obvious what caused the illness. All the people affected report vomiting and diarrhea. Specimens have been collected to test. Test results expected mid-week.
The cruise norovirus outbreak onboard Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas was linked to a new type – GII 4 Sydney strain norovirus, also blamed for last year’s outbreak on Cunard Queen Mary 2. During the cruise in January, 2013, 220 passengers and crew developed norovirus.