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Overview: What is the “Norovirus” & How Does it Relate to Cruising?

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Lately a few cruise ships in Europe have been docked because of the dreaded ‘norovirus’.  I think it is time to clear the air on what the virus is and why it’s not just limited to cruise ships…. no pun intended.

Checking on the CDC website (center of disease control)  in Atlanta,Ga they define it as “a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu,” or gastroenteritis (GAS-tro-en-ter-I-tis), in people. The term norovirus was recently approved as the official name for this group of viruses.”

According to the CDC, “There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection. And there is no drug to treat people who are infected with the virus. Antibiotic drugs will not help if you have norovirus infection. This is because they fight against bacteria not viruses.  Norovirus illness is usually brief in people who are otherwise healthy. But, the infection can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. This can lead to dehydration (loss of too much water from the body). During norovirus infection, young children, the elderly, and people with other illnesses are most at risk for dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up. A dehydrated child may also cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.”

The norovirus is mostly associated with cruise ships because of the tight living quarters, constant new passenger arrivals, and the CDC keeping a close eye on virus outbreaks on vessels.

However the virus is not just limited to cruise ships, in fact over 20 million people annually pick up the virus. Cruise ships get a lot of flack for the virus because they are required from the CDC to report on board illnesses.  What isn’t known is that the CDC has a very strict vessel sanitation program.  It takes a grade of an 86 percent for a vessel to pass the on board sanitation inspection.

Some safety tips are to wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places, avoid touching strangers, and always wash your hands after going to the restroom.  Hope this insight helps.

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