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What is Norovirus?

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Norovirus is a very contagious virus. A person can become infected from another infected person, by touching a contaminated surface, or ingesting infected food or water. Once infected with norovirus, a person may experience abdominal pain, nauseas, vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, a person may also experience fever headache and generalized body aches.

The Centers for Disease Control report that Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. It reportedly causes between 19 and 21 million illnesses annually, and as many as 800 deaths. Fortunately, most people recover within 1-3 days. Norovirus can spread quickly in closed places, such as nursing homes, daycare centers, schools and cruise ships. Early detection and treatment are paramount to recovery. Good handwashing is the best way to prevent the spread of infection.

Lately, cruise ships are reporting an increased incidence of norovirus. The CDC reports that norovirus is associated with cruise ships for a variety of reasons. Illness of any sort is tracked on cruise ships, so outbreaks are more easily detected than if persons are on land, on home, or on ground travel. The close living quarters of a cruise ship also increase the amount of contact people have with each other, increasing the odds of spreading any type of illness. Finally, on a cruise ship, people may come on board at different ports, further exposing a contained group to this infection.

To stay healthy on a cruise, remember that diligent hand washing is the first line of defense. Encourage hand washing in all areas of the cruise boat, especially communal areas such as buffet lines where many people are touching the same surfaces. Report all such illness symptoms (abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea) to the appropriate officials, and stay well hydrated during the duration of the illness.

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