The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports of a gastrointestinal illness outbreak on a cruise ship that was supposed to be bound for an Alaskan exploration. Crew and several guests have fallen ill, and the agency continues to monitor the outbreak as the ship makes its way back to Seattle.

Outbreak On A Cruise Ship

Holland America’s Zaandam cruise ship was bound for an Alaskan adventure, but days after the leaving Seattle, crew members and guests alike began experiencing diarrhea and vomiting. On June 22, instead of continuing on its journey, the ship remained docked in Juneau as 15 crew members and over 50 passengers were already ill.

In response, the ship’s crew members have increased their cleaning and disinfecting procedures as per the ship’s outbreak response plan. They continued to coordinate with the CDC in regards to the daily reports of gastrointestinal illnesses and the plans for sanitation procedures when the ship finally returns to Seattle on July 2. The crew aboard the ship also collects stool samples from the illness cases for testing.

Evidently, the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program collected and tested various samples from the illness cases and so far, none have tested positive for norovirus; however, the samples are being sent over to the CDC for further testing. As of the latest update, the CDC still has not found the main source of the outbreak.

Is It Norovirus?

Although there is yet to be a confirmation that the source of the illness is actually norovirus, according to the CDC, the illness is often associated with cruise ships because of the close living quarters that increases the amount of contact between people. Further, reports of illnesses on cruise ships are also very quickly reported to authorities compared to cases on land as health officials are constantly monitoring them.

However, the agency states that such illnesses on cruise ships are not as common as some people may think. In fact, between 2008 and 2014, of the 74 million people who sailed on cruise ships, only about 129,000 were confirmed to have acute gastrointestinal illness, and of them, only 1 in 10 was associated with a norovirus outbreak.

In the case of the outbreak in Zaandam, the symptoms do seem to fit norovirus, particularly because of the diarrhea and vomiting; however, as mentioned, this has not yet been confirmed by laboratory testing.

That said, good hygiene, particularly proper hand washing, is very important in preventing such illnesses and other contagious diseases, especially in places like cruise ships as it increases the chances of close interaction with other people. If a person is unsure of the safety of a cruise ship he or she is interested in, the CDC has a database of cruise ship inspections where one may see which ones scored satisfactorily (86 and above), and which ones did not receive satisfactory scores (85 and below).

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