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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Truth About The Norovirus and Cruise Travel

News stories regarding norovirus incidents aboard cruise ships may cause some concerns about vacationing at sea. This article has been prepared so that you have the latest norovirus information at your finger tips. Included are the procedures that cruise lines are taking, plus preventative measures that you can take to stay healthy while enjoying your vacation. According to the most recent information, the facts are as follows:
  • What is norovirus? Norovirus sounds exotic, but it’s well known as the “24-hour stomach bug” and is the second most prevalent illness in the U.S., after the common cold. Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps that typically last one to two days.
  • There are numerous incidents of norovirus across the country, but the reason you hear about it with regard to cruise ships is because they are the only ones required to report gastrointestinal illness to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Hotels don’t have to report it – neither do airlines, universities or hospitals!
    Washing your hands will help to
    prevent you from getting the virus
  • On cruise ships, the illness is typically spread through person-to-person contact by touching surfaces that someone with the virus previously had contact with, not from the food or water. So, you should heed your mother’s advice and wash your hands! The best way to prevent illness is to wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water.
  • What are the chances of getting norovirus? The CDC estimates that 23 million people in the U.S. – or eight percent of the population – contract norovirus each year; that’s 1 in 12 people. In contrast, far less than one percent of all U.S. cruise guests are affected by norovirus annually; that’s 1 in 3,600 people. The few cruise guests who experience symptoms should follow the guidance of the ship’s medical staff to prevent the spread of the illness to fellow passengers.
  • In addition to taking individual precautions, please be reassured that cruise lines are vigilant in keeping a clean ship. Rigorous cleaning procedures are in place to disinfect and sanitize public areas including all door handles, railings, elevator buttons and slot machine levers, to name just a few. In fact, according to the CDC, cruise lines have the highest sanitation standards in the world!
Please be reassured that the safety and well-being of all guests is the cruise industry’s highest priority. Should you seek additional information, including more information on norovirus, tips for staying healthy on a cruise and proper hand-washing techniques, please visit the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program Web site at www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp or www.cdc.gov.

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