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Cruise ship outbreak: 600 passengers and crew sick as CDC tests for norovirus

A cruise ship outbreak has left more than 600 passengers and crew with a stomach illness and now the ship is headed back to it's port of origin two days early. “Fox and Friends” live on Monday, Jan. 27, report that the CDC boarded the ship that has 3,050 passengers on board to investigate this stomach illness, which has all the symptoms of norovirus.

Cruise ship outbreak numbers 600 passengers and crew. The number doubled overnight.
Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

The tests that will officially name the virus are due back midweek, so the virus is of unknown origin until that time. NBC News reports that at 564 passengers and 47 crew are ill at last count. This is 300 more than was reported on Saturday, so apparently this is a fast spreading virus or bug.

The cruise ship left from a port in New Jersey last week and soon the ship's passengers began falling ill. The number of people with this stomach bug has doubled, seemingly overnight.

Reports indicate that an epidemiologist and an environmental health officer boarded the Freedom of the Seas ship from the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. The 15-deck ship looked clean and was sparkling in the tropical sun, but inside some type of bug was spreading among the passengers, many who spent the majority of the cruise in bed.

The ship underwent an extensive sanitizing in Puerto Rico after skipping the port of Haiti to get that overhaul of cleaning. When it pulled into St. Thomas on Sunday the CDC people came aboard to do their assessment and testing.

The illness is leaving people with vomiting and diarrhea and although the ship’s staff has handed out over-the-counter medication that is said to give them some relief, they cannot seem to stop it from spreading.

When the ship docked over the weekend in St. Thomas, passengers spoke with Fox News and reported how their luxury cruise has turned into more of a hospital setting. Passengers are not allowed to touch anything, the buffets have been stopped and food is passed out almost military style, where it is handed directly to the individual.

Once at home in New Jersey, the ship will undergo a more extensive sanitizing. The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is expected to compensate the passengers in some way for this lost cruise. The cruise was scheduled for 10-days, but it is coming back two days early.