Nature is a very cruel mistress. So, it should come as no surprise that when news of a crisis involving a cruise ship hits the media, the first thing people assume is that the ship has sunken or toppled over. But that just goes to show how fast we are at jumping at conclusions.
A ship belonging to Fred Olsen Cruises, the Balmoral, docked in Maine at the end of last month after a large part of its passengers and cruise members got really sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 252 of the 919 passengers got sick, meaning 27 percent of the whole party on-board.
It turns out that the disease affecting the crew and passengers was norovirus. While the crew couldn’t really identify the outbreak as norovirus, the CDC quickly established that that was the case as soon as they climbed on board the docked ship on April 30th. The health officials performed a full sweep of the ship.
Urged by the CDC, in order to properly perform the correct sanitation procedures, the cruise line increased the disinfection procedures, started collecting stool samples from passengers, and even sent the public health and sanitation manager of Fred Olsen Cruises’ corporate office to oversee the procedures.
Everything started on April 29th, when the cruise line put out a press release saying that a disease of a gastroenteritis type has affected a number of guests. This was happening two weeks after the ship left Southampton, England on April 16th.
The ship docked in Portland, Maine over the weekend, and that is where the CDC went on-board to examine the ship for contaminants and to determine the nature of the infectious condition. Once the presence of norovirus was determined, the CDC left the cruise line’s higher management to take care of the situation.
Even Portland’s mayor, Ethan Strimling, risked getting infected, as he went on-board in order to welcome the passengers. He later told the press about how people were constantly wiping things down all over the ship, even in the elevators.
For those of you not in the know, norovirus is actually a group of related viruses belonging to the Caliciviridae family. When people ingest the highly infectious virions, the virions grow in their smaller intestines and are expelled in feces.
It is actually the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis, one of the most common gastrointestinal infections in the country. In fact, there are some nineteen to twenty million cases of the condition treated in United States hospitals every year, and they mostly start in crowded environments.
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