Celebrity Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreak Sickens More Than 100 People: CDC

More than 100 passengers and crew members have fallen ill aboard a Celebrity Cruise ship, sparking the company to implement infection control response plans and additional sanitation crews. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning on Monday, indicating that about 106 passengers and crew members became ill with the Norovirus while aboard the Celebrity Infinity cruise ship during its voyages between March 29 and April 13.

The root cause of the cruise ship virus has not been determined at this time, but the CDC is participating and overseeing the ongoing investigation with sanitation crews.

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On April 13, the agency sent an environmental health officer from the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) and one epidemiologist to board the Celebrity Infinity cruise ship in San Diego, California. According to the CDC, the two members were instructed to conduct an environmental health assessment and evaluate the outbreak response activities, as well as collect specimens to be tested to determine the causative agent.

In addition to CDC agents boarding the ship, Celebrity Cruises has responded to the outbreak by sending corporate management, hotel, and housekeeping teams to assist the onboard management with infection control and increased disinfection procedures.

Celebrity Cruises officials stated that they will be implementing new protocols that will include making announcements to notify onboard passengers and crew members of the outbreaks, encourage case reporting, making twice daily reports of gastrointestinal illness cases to the VSP, and planning protocols to decrease the opportunity of illness transmission once illnesses have been reported.

The CDC and Celebrity Cruise Line are still trying to find the cause of the norovirus to prevent further illness. Cruise ship passengers are most commonly impacted by norovirus because the virus can spread quickly through use of improperly cleaned utensils, shaking hands, and the touching of common areas such as door knobs or lounge chairs.

Also on Monday, the CDC reported they are taking similar precautions aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship, where about 114 passengers have become ill with an unknown infection. According to the CDC, passengers aboard the Legend of the Seas cruise ship between March 30, and April 14, 2015 became ill with norovirus-like symptoms, but the virus has not been confirmed.

Noroviruses are the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the United States. The CDC estimates that noroviruses are responsible for more than half of all food-borne disease outbreaks each year. The virus can be contracted by eating food or drinking liquids that have been contaminated and by touching an object or surface that has been infected with the virus and then touch your nose, mouth, or eyes. The virus is extremely contagious and can survive in severe temperatures in water or land.

Although healthy individuals are still susceptible to the virus, people with weakened immune systems are extremely vulnerable. The virus causes an individual’s stomach and large intestines to inflame from exposure to the infection which usually leads to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and severe stomach cramps.


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