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Norovirus sickens dozens onboard Princess Cruise Lines, 'Caribbean Princess'

A confirmed norovirus outbreak has sickened 173 passengers and crew on the Princess Cruise Lines vessel, Caribbean Princess, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program release Jan. 30.

Norovirus outbreak strikes the Caribbean Princess
Norovirus outbreak strikes the Caribbean Princess
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The VSP states that 162 of 3102 passengers onboard, or 5.22 percent have exhibited symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting, while less than one percent of the crew, 11 of 1148 were also affected.

While the VSP says the causative agent of the outbreak is unknown, Princess Cruise Lines reported that norovirus has been confirmed as the culprit in a statement Thursday.

Caribbean Princess is being forced to return to Houston one day early because we were informed that dense fog is expected to close the port for much of the weekend, and we are mindful of our passengers’ safety and comfort, as well as the disruption the port’s closing will have on their onward travel plans.

Simultaneously, onboard the current sailing, Caribbean Princess has experienced an increase in the number of cases of gastroenteritis among passengers, which has been confirmed to be norovirus, a common but contagious illness which is widely circulating throughout North America. Because of the increased sensitivity surrounding norovirus by both cruise lines and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in this winter season, we notified the CDC who will be boarding on Friday to ensure all appropriate measures are followed for an extensive sanitation of the ship prior to the next cruise departing February 1.

In response to the outbreak, crew have increased cleaning and disinfection procedures, as well as public announcements notifying passengers of the outbreak and encouraging hand washing and case reporting.

Two CDC Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officers will board the ship in Houston, TX on January 31 and February 1, 2014 to conduct an epidemiologic investigation, environmental health assessment, and evaluate the outbreak and response activities.

This most recent outbreak follows on the heels of two outbreaks onboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line vessels--Majesty of the Seas, in which some 68 passengers and crew were sickened with gastrointestinal symptoms and more recently, Explorer of the Seas, where nearly 700 onboard suffered through symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.

Princess Cruise Lines announced that passengers with scheduled air flights from Houston will be accommodated overnight at local hotels by Princess, and they will receive a future cruise credit of 20% of their fare, as well as one day per diem to help offset any ancillary expenses such as meals.

Norovirus is a highly contagious illness caused by infection with a virus of the same name. It is often called by other names, such as viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu, and food poisoning.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, childrenexperience more vomiting than adults do.

Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food andwater, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.

Norovirus causes more than 20 million illnesses annually, and it is the leading cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States.

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