Norovirus Hits Cruise Ship Passengers
February 6, 2012

Norovirus Hits Cruise Ship Passengers

Passengers aboard a Royal Caribbean and two Carnival ocean liners fell ill with a stomach virus last week, forcing delays while the companies worked to disinfect the ships before returning to sea.

Ninety passengers and 13 crew aboard Carnival´s Ruby Princess contracted Norovirus over the weekend, Julie Benson, a spokeswoman for Princess Cruises, told Reuters in a statement.

The same virus -- a contagious gastrointestinal illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea for up to three days -- was blamed for sickening 364 passengers and 30 crew aboard Carnival´s Crown Princess last week.

The Ruby Princess set sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on January 29 to the Caribbean and returned as scheduled on Sunday, said Benson. The Crown Princess had been sanitized and embarked on its next voyage Saturday night. The Ruby Princess was scheduled for a Sunday afternoon departure.

Passengers on both departing cruises were notified of the outbreak and cleaning, she said, and advised of protective measures. Investigators with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were on board both vessels monitoring cleaning procedures, Benson said.

A third ship, Royal´s Voyager of the Seas, was delayed in leaving a New Orleans port Saturday for a few hours while crew worked to sanitize the ship, said Port of New Orleans spokesman Chris Bonura.

The CDC notified the Louisiana port on Friday that a cruise ship may be coming in with a Norovirus outbreak, according to epidemiologist Raoult Ratard on Sunday. The CDC was not sure how many passengers on that liner were ill at the time.

Agency spokesman Tom Skinner said he could not comment immediately because the CDC inspector who had been on the Voyager on Saturday was busy checking another cruise ship in Florida on Sunday -- one of the Carnival liners.

According to a report from WDSU-TV on Sunday, about 200 passengers aboard the Voyager became ill from Norovirus, an illness that spreads quickly in close quarters such as cruise ships and nursing homes.

To put things in perspective, Ratard said, norovirus can afflict as many as 3,000 people per day in New Orleans, about the same number of people you would find on a typical ocean liner.

“In a closed space like a cruise ship, in a nursing home, in a hospital, you want to be extra careful. But the 3,000, they´re all over the place,” Ratard said.

The virus outbreak marked another setback for Carnival, which is already dealing with the financial impact of the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the coast of Italy, with 17 confirmed deaths and 15 still among the missing.

Carnival said January 30th that it would take a profit loss of nearly $175 million because of costs related to this wreck. The company has said it will release a revised full-year earnings forecast in March.

Royal Caribbean, the second-largest cruise line, warned February 2nd that it would face a dramatic drop-off in new booking due to the Carnival wreck, which could cut its earnings in half in the current quarter.


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