Norovirus Outbreaks On US Cruise Ships Triples In 2023 As The Sector Recovers From Covid

The highly contagious gastrointestinal illness has rapidly spread on 13 cruise vessels — so far — in 2023. So far, there have been 13 outbreaks of the contagious norovirus on cruise vessels in 2023 — the highest number recorded since 2012. And it is just July.

The most recent outbreak occurred on the Viking Neptune, where almost 13% of 838 guests on the vessel contracted the illness. That is the highest percentage of guests to fall ill from norovirus until now, per the CDC.

We believe that gastrointestinal illness originated from a shoreside restaurant in Iceland where some guests dined in their free time, a representative of Viking told CNN. Often dismissed as “stomach flu,” norovirus is a contagious gastrointestinal illness that results in vomiting and acute diarrhoea. It is entirely unrelated to the flu.

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And if someone with the norovirus prepares food, there’s a high chance they can spread the illness — particularly if they have not thoroughly washed their hands. The CDC states you can also acquire the virus from touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting the unwashed fingers in the mouth — which is why cruise vessels like the Viking Neptune enacted increased disinfection and cleaning procedures after the outbreak.

While it might seem like cruise vessels are a significant breeding ground for typical gastrointestinal illnesses such as the norovirus, the CDC says that is false. Acute gastrointestinal illness is comparatively infrequent on cruise vessels, per the agency. Relevant health officials track illnesses on cruise vessels. So outbreaks are detected and reported more quickly on a cruise vessel than on land.

While there have been 13 norovirus cases diagnosed in 2023, the CDC is not recommending that individuals avoid cruises like they did when the very contagious Covid variant, Omicron, was spreading toward late 2021.

However, per the CDC, Covid-era recommendations to wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds can help avoid the spread of norovirus. Hand sanitiser needs to be fixed. The Mayo Clinic recommends plain soap and water over any alcohol-based sanitiser.

Since norovirus quickly spreads via food prep, the CDC highly recommends that shellfish be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F (at least) — as quick steaming procedures might not heat foods enough to kill the noroviruses completely. The symptoms can kick in as early as 12 hours after exposure to the norovirus and last three days.

And even though diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach pain are unpleasant, most of these symptoms resolve independently, with patients being advised to stay hydrated and use over-the-counter solutions (such as anti-diarrheal and anti-nausea medication) to ease the symptoms. However, for some — particularly young children, older adults, and individuals with other medical conditions — diarrhoea and vomiting can be severely dehydrating and need urgent medical attention.

Some of the warning signs of dehydration are dry mouth and fatigue. Parents are cautioned to keep monitoring their children, as those who are dehydrated may cry with no or few tears. They may be unusually fussy or sleepy. In such extreme cases, intravenous hydration may be needed.

Reference: Yahoo movies, The Messenger, People

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