Barely two weeks into the new year, the first cruise ship norovirus outbreak of 2024 has already been reported.
During a Celebrity Cruise voyage from January 3 to 12, more than 3% of passengers and under 1% of crew members were confirmed to have norovirus.
Out of 2,056 passengers, 92 were diagnosed with gastrointestinal illness based on tests done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meanwhile, 68 guests who had fallen ill experienced symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. Among the 948 crew members, 8 of them had the virus.
The outbreak happened onboard the Celebrity Constellation as it toured guests around Cozumel, Costa Maya, New Orleans, and Belize.
The cruise line responded with the quick deployment of sanitation measures which included more frequent cleaning and disinfection activities. It also quarantined individuals who displayed symptoms.
What You Should Know About the Norovirus
Norovirus is easily transmitted when an uninfected person comes into contact with contaminated surfaces and tainted food and water. Infection can also spread through the vomit or fecal matter of someone who has it. After ingesting the virus, symptoms can manifest as early as 12 hours upon exposure or after one to two days.
Its most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Less common signs of norovirus are headaches, muscle aches, chills, and fever.
The good news is the infection typically goes away within 1 to 3 days, even without significant medical intervention. Cruise passengers are advised to adopt more stringent hygiene practices to minimize the risk of catching it.
How Common is the Norovirus During Cruises?
Last year, the CDC recorded 14 outbreaks, 13 of which were due to the norovirus. Though common, an epidemiology professor from Emory University assured USA Today that norovirus cases onboard cruise ships were a “tiny minority of norovirus outbreaks.” According to Professor Ben Lopman, the majority of cases happen in healthcare facilities like nursing homes.
Because of its highly infectious nature, the source of the outbreaks is seldom identified as was the case with the 14th outbreak of 2023 aboard Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady.