Cruise virus poses little threat

A possible Norwalk virus outbreak on board the Mariner of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, which was docked in Grand Cayman yesterday, should not pose too much of a threat to the people of Cayman.

The Norwalk virus is a gastrointestinal illness that occurs in outbreaks and is passed through the stool of infected persons. It lasts two to three days and has no serious long-term effects.

Little risk

‘There is little risk to the local population,’ read advice from the Public Health Department in conjunction with Immigration, Customs, Tourism, and the Department of Environmental Health.

A press statement issued by Government Information Services yesterday, said that Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. C. Cummings was notified of the possible Norwalk-like virus outbreak on board the ship.

The statement reads, ‘The ship’s crew has put in place the international recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus on board. In fact there has been a decrease in the number of cases over the last 48 hours.

‘There are no seriously ill persons on board requiring medical care.

‘The virus is transmitted primarily via the faecal-oral route, and therefore unaffected passengers and crew who disembark pose little risk to the local population.

‘Persons who have not been affected were allowed to disembark.

‘Persons whose cabin mates have fallen ill have not been allowed to disembark.’

A statement from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines confirms that the 16 January, seven-night sailing of Mariner of the Seas has an elevated number of people experiencing a gastrointestinal illness.

Over the course of the sailing approximately 171 of the 3,465 guests and 12 of the 1,190 crew members have experienced the illness, thought to be a Norovirus brought onboard by a guest previously exposed to it, says the cruise line. Norovirus is the genus name for the group of viruses provisionally described as ‘Norwalk-like viruses’.

‘Those affected by the
short-lived illness have been treated and have responded well to over the
counter medication,’ reads the statement.

Royal Caribbean points out that according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Noroviruses affect 23 million Americans every year, and an estimated 300 million people globally every year. The only illness that is more prevalent is the common cold.

Proactive steps

The cruise line says it takes all health issues seriously and has taken numerous proactive steps to maintain the high health standards onboard Mariner of the Seas.

‘These steps include sending three additional doctors and an additional nurse to assist the ship’s medical team.

‘A short list of the procedures implemented onboard Mariner of the Seas includes:

‘Implementing a three-stage illness prevention program. The program’s
action plan outlines specific, heightened sanitation procedures for crew members, from the captain to housekeepers.

‘Implementing enhanced cleaning procedures and protocols, as recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

‘Using special cleaning products and disinfectants to clean throughout our ships.

‘Conducting special cleaning of all ‘high-touch’ areas on the ship, including, but not limited to, countertops, restroom and vanity surfaces, door handles, railings and grab bars, exercise equipment, TV remote controls, light switches, elevator buttons, and computer keyboards.’

Standards
The cruise line’s statement goes on to say that the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention works very closely with the cruise industry.

‘The standards by which the cruise industry are held for sanitation are the highest in the world.’
Mariner of the Seas departed Grand Cayman yesterday. It is sailing in the Western Caribbean, visiting Labadee,, Hispaniola; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico. The cruise ends Sunday at Port Canaveral, Florida.