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Norovirus

Sunday, January 1, 2012

STEPS TO PREVENT GASTROINTESTINAL ILLNESS ABOARD SHIPS

Historic incidence rates of Gastrointestinal Illness (such as Norovirus) aboard cruise ships is low and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the vast majority of outbreaks occur in land based settings such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. Nonetheless, due to recent increased incidence of land-based Gastrointestinal Illness in the United States, Europe and South America the cruise line industry is employing a variety of enhanced sanitation practices, including implementing specific, well established Outbreak Prevention and Response Plans, designed to keep passengers healthy during their cruise vacations. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) member lines regularly communicate with one other, local and state health departments, the U.S. CDC and other international public health authorities to gather epidemiological information, identify sources of infection and share best practices.

One of the cruise industries’ top priorities is preventing Gastrointestinal Illness from being brought on board a ship, though should it occur, CLIA lines employ numerous practices to mitigate its spread and treat ill passengers and crew. Enhanced passenger health screening implemented by CLIA lines during the flu season remains in place today to assist in identifying ill passengers prior to boarding. CLIA lines also educate their crew and passengers on proper hand hygiene practices in an effort to maintain a clean and healthy environment throughout the cruise vacation.

Additional practices cruise lines employ to maintain a healthy environment on all ships are as follows: • Regular sanitization of frequently contacted hand touch surfaces such as door handles, railings and elevator buttons

  • Providing hand sanitizers to passengers during their cruise
  • Sending public health specialists as well as additional medical personnel to ships as required
  • Amending food service practices as required, to include providing staff service in traditionally self-service areas like buffets
  • Communicating well established educational hand hygiene practices and additional methods of decreasing the transmission of illness to all passengers and crew
  • Asking ill passengers to recuperate in their cabins until symptoms subside in an effort to reduce the spread of any illness of public health concern

Additionally, CLIA lines report cases of Gastrointestinal Illness and share information collected from symptomatic passengers with local and federal health officials. This practice enables these agencies to better identify the original source of infection and allows the cruise lines to more effectively implement mitigating strategies. Among other details, this information includes flight and hotel information prior to embarkation.