Cruise Ship Outbreak: Over 600 Reported Sick

A cruise ship outbreak has sickened more than 600 passengers and crew members aboard a Royal Caribbean ship. Although the cause of the outbreak is unknown, it appears to be a gastrointestinal illness. A spokeswoman with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said hundreds have experienced nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

The symptoms suggest passengers and crew aboard Explorer of the Seas contracted norovirus, which is a common culprit in cruise ship outbreaks. According to the CDC, seven cruise ships experienced norovirus outbreaks in 2013 alone.

Norovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus, which is easily spread. It can be passed through contact with infected people, surfaces, food, and beverages. The virus causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which causes abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Although the virus causes incredible discomfort, most patients fully recover. Young children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems, may experience prolonged and more severe symptoms.

Officials with the CDC boarded the ship Sunday afternoon while it was docked in the US Virgin Islands. They will conduct a complete investigation to identify the type of virus and its origin.

CDC spokeswoman Bernadette Burden confirmed 577 passengers and 49 crew members were sickened in the cruise ship outbreak.

Although the ship underwent “extensive and thorough sanitizing” during a stop in Puerto Rico, passengers and crew members continued reporting symptoms. As reported by CBS News, passenger Arnee Dodd shared her experience through Twitter. Dodd said she and numerous others were being quarantined to avoid infecting others. She said the ship’s crew members “are constantly cleaning everything.”

Passenger Joseph Angelillo discussed his experience with CNN during a phone call from the ship. Angelillo said he experienced nausea and vomiting “all night and into the morning.” He initially thought he had food poisoning. Angelilli said he is anxious to get off the ship and go home.

A representative with Royal Caribbean said “new reports of illness have decreased” and many passengers and crew members are beginning to recover. However, the 10-day cruise will end earlier than expected. The representative confirmed the ship will return to port two days early.

When the ship returns to port, workers will perform a “thorough ‘barrier’ sanitization program on the entire ship to make certain that any remaining traces of the illness are eliminated.”

The Royal Caribbean cruise line issued an apology, stating that the company was “unable to deliver the vacation [the] guests were expecting.” It is unclear how many passengers are still experiencing symptoms from the cruise ship outbreak. However the CDC is closely monitoring the situation.

[Image via Flickr]