Norovirus Outbreak Blows Cruise Ship Off Course, Passengers Quarantined In Norfolk

A cruise ship traveling from Europe was stricken with norovirus and forced to have passengers quarantined in Norfolk, reports CBS affiliate WTKR. Approximately 17 percent of the guests on the Balmoral cruise began to vomit and exhibit other signs of gastrointestinal distress as the voyage progressed. Out of 917 passengers, 153 of them began to vomit and suffer from diarrhea, and six of the 518 crew members showed signs of illness as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that the ship had been contaminated with the norovirus and those testing positive for the disease were quarantined.

The Balmoral began its voyage on April 16, but many of the guests suddenly began to show signs of the norovirus: vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and fever. It is very common for the virus to run rampant in settings such as a cruise ship, schools, or any place where there is a captive audience. The disease moves quickly and people are most likely to infect others when they are showing symptoms themselves. This is generally why a cruise ship would have passengers quarantined.

Originally, it was reported that the crew had passengers quarantined, but at a press conference conducted by the ship’s captain, Bent Ivar Gangdal, attendees were assured that there was no quarantine in place. Anyone infected was isolated from other passengers and asked to stay on board for an additional 48 hours after their symptoms stop. Gangdal also said that before the trip started there were reports of the virus on board.

“Fred Olsen Cruise Lines can confirm that Balmoral has not been quarantined in Norfolk.”

The Balmoral is U.K.-based and operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. The crew immediately put their emergency response plan into place which includes intense cleaning and disinfecting methods and collecting stool samples for testing. The cruise line also sent their public health and sanitation manager to oversee the situation and provide the CDC with frequent updates regarding the status of those already infected and the newly infected. There will be an epidemiologist and two CDC officials on board on Saturday to assess the outbreak and evaluate the crew’s response to the situation.

The norovirus forces Balmoral crew into action cleaning and passengers quarantined. [Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]The ship is currently docked at the Half Moone at Nauticus. In addition, the 153 total is accumulative and spans a two-week period. Currently, the number of victims infected is down to seven and decreasing steadily.

Each year, approximately 20 million Americans become infected with the norovirus. It is extremely contagious and it only takes a few norovirus microbes to cause an infection, indicating that perhaps merely washing hands isn’t enough to prevent an outbreak, although it may reduce the number. According to the CDC, one in five employees in the food service industry say they have worked with their bare hands while experiencing intestinal issues in the previous year.

Despite the outbreak, some of the passengers have said that they still enjoyed the trip. The Virginian-Pilot was told by passenger Robert Bruce that his biggest complaint was not being able to lean against the rails because the crew was constantly cleaning them. This isn’t the first time the Balmoral has had a norovirus outbreak. In 2010, the crew had 293 passengers quarantined when they were infected with the virus.

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