What’s worse than being stranded on a crippled cruise ship that has limited water, food and working toilets? The fear of diseases that can arise from the filthy conditions those passengers aboard the crippled Carnival Triumph described via text messages from the ship and to reporters as they disembarked last night in Mobile, Alabama.
If you haven’t heard by now, the Triumph left for a five day cruise from Galveston, Texas, last Thursday. On Sunday, as the ship was about 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula, it experienced a fire in the one of its engines, which cut the main power to the ship causing water and plumbing systems to stop working. Early reports said that water was available and toilets were working in half the ship, however, reports from passengers onboard the ship disputed that claim. Some passengers described to family members and the media how they had to use red plastic bags in place of toilets. Some reported that people were using showers and sinks in place of toilets. Others reported overflowing toilets, feces running down walls and urine soaked carpeting.
Passengers praised crew members who cleaned and scrubbed as best they could under the worst conditions, but a main concern was an outbreak of norovirus, also known as the cruise ship virus, which causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. While it appeared there were no outbreaks as of last night, medical staff waited at the pier to check passengers as they disembarked.
According to various reports, the ship also had no ventilation. Without proper ventilation, and under the conditions just cited along with very warm temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, the ship had the potential to become a “floating incubator” of bad germs, diseases and illnesses. Air quality aboard the ship was compromised. This coupled with an inability to properly wash hands after going to the bathroom and the reports of feces on walls, could quickly have led to a large outbreak of norovirus or other bacteria that cause illness, according to an article in the New York Daily News. In essence, the air inside the cruise ship was polluted. The compromised air quality had the potential to wreak havoc on respiratory systems.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, whether people will get sick or when depends on such factors as preexisting conditions, age and other factors. Immediate effects of illness from conditions like the ones on the Triumph can resemble colds or the flu or other viral illnesses. The CDC says these gastrointestinal diseases can be spread through contaminated food or water, as well as through food handlers who have not washed their hands. It can spread through contact with handrails, elevator buttons even sharing of utensils.
Carnival Corp. maintained throughout the ordeal that conditions aboard the ship were not as dire as reports coming from passengers who are living through this nightmare. Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill called conditions aboard the ship “challenging” but downplayed the seriousness of what was happening,
The ship finally docked in Mobile late last night. More information is coming out about what exactly has happened aboard the ship and how dire the situation really was. One real problem will be if people get sick in the next few days. Carnival must report to the CDC if more than 3 percent of the passengers aboard the ship (or any ship) come down with gastrointestinal viruses, however, they may not know who many people actually are sick unless those passengers notify Carnival.
This story is far from over.