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Royal Caribbean cruise ship outbreak: 600 passengers sick, voyage aborted

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A Royal Caribbean cruise ship outbreak has left 600 passengers sick and caused the CDC to abort the cruise ship's journey two days early. What was supposed to be a fun-filled 10-day trip in the Caribbean on the Explorer of the Seas turned into a nightmare for hundreds of crew members and passengers when they became sick with an unspecified gastrointestinal illness.

On Sun., Jan. 26, 2014, officials from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention boarded the beleaguered ship at a United States Virgin Islands port. Officials were there to investigate the Royal Caribbean cruise ship outbreak and make evaluations regarding the appropriate response, according to the Washington Post.

That's when officials, in partnership with medical team assigned to the cruise line, made the decision to abort the cruise. Of more than 3,000 passengers aboard the ship, nearly 600 fell ill after departing New Jersey on Tuesday of last week. In addition, nearly 50 crew members were affected.

The company released a statement regarding the Royal Caribbean cruise ship outbreak. It read, in part:

Explorer of the Seas will return home from its 10-day cruise two days early, after an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness that spiked over the weekend. New reports of illness have decreased day-over-day, and many guests are again up and about. Nevertheless, the disruptions caused by the early wave of illness means that we were unable to deliver the vacation our guests were expecting. After consultation between our medical team and representatives of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we think the right thing to do is to bring our guests home early, and use the extra time to sanitize the ship even more thoroughly. We are sorry for disappointing our guests, and we are taking several steps to compensate them for their inconvenience.

The Explorer of the Seas will land at the United States later on this week with members of the CDC still on board. Before the ship returns to the United States on Wednesday, it will be cleaned using disinfectant typically used for norovirus.

Although the specific type of illness that led to the Royal Caribbean cruise ship outbreak has not been identified yet, norovirus is a frequent offender on cruise ships due to its ability to spread quickly, especially through close quarters.

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