The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 10 outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness on cruise ships in 2018 according to an AMA release..
Most outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness on cruise ships are caused by norovirus, a common "stomach bug" that is widespread across America in the winter. The CDC estimates there are 19 to 21 million cases of norovirus in America each year.
Highly contagious with a short incubation period, norovirus causes diarrhea and vomiting that typically lasts for one to three days. It's sometimes called the "stomach flu," although it is unrelated to influenza.
Norovirus usually is brought onto cruise ships by passengers at embarkation.
The CDC lists five of the 10 outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness on cruise ships in 2018 as being caused by norovirus. The cause of four more of the outbreaks currently is listed as unknown. One outbreak, on a Cunard Line ship, was the result of E. coli, according to the CDC data.
Cruise ships must report onboard cases of gastrointestinal illness to the CDC as they approach a U.S. port after visiting a foreign port. If the number of cases exceeds 3% of passengers or crew on board, it is considered an outbreak and information on the cases is posted publicly under the Outbreak Updates section of the Vessel Sanitation Program website.
Only cruises on ships touching U.S. ports that carry 100 or more passengers are included in the data.
The number of outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness on cruise ships recorded by the CDC ballooned in the 2000s, with the number exceeding 20 for several years. The number peaked in 2006 at 37. The increase was blamed on a new strain of norovirus.
In the wake of the increase, cruise lines stepped up efforts to get passengers to wash their hands frequently while on board ships and use sanitizing gel. Lines also have adopted rigorous cleaning regimes.
Cruise ship contaminations resulting in infection or other disease, similar to our post on ambulance infections, is a form of personal injury as opposed to medical malpractice given that harm did not occur in the course of medical care. All such injuries are investigated and reviewed by MedWitness, Ltd. For those who wish to see if they have a viable case to pursue.