It can ruin an entire trip to get sick, but unfortunately it can happen. When you take to the high seas, you are at risk for a Norovirus, which is also known as the stomach flu. Norovirus isn’t a cruise illness, per se, but because there are many people living in close quarters of each other for a period of time, a virus can spread quickly. This is accomplished by touching door handles and chairs or shaking hands with someone who is contaminated.
Early in 2016, more than 200 passengers on a British cruise line came down with a Norovirus and more than 130 passengers and crew members were sickened on a Disney cruise. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that Norovirus causes 19 to 21 million illnesses, 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths every year. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and possibly a low-grade fever and headache.
You can take a few steps to make sure that you’re not sidelined with a Norovirus on a cruise ship:
1. Wash: Clean your hands with soap and water frequently. This is especially important after you use the bathroom and change diapers and especially before you eat food where you will put your hands to your mouth. There are antibacterial wipes that you can carry in your bag or use when you need to.
2. Clean: You can use these same antibacterial Lysol wipes to clean around your stateroom when you get there and carry them as you move about the ship. Wipe chair handles and door handles before you touch them.
3. Avoid the buffet: Buffets are one of the best parts of the cruise, because the food is so good, but if you want to reduce your risks of catching something, look the other way. At a cruise buffet, handles are turned out and passenger after passenger come by and touch the same handle. It’s an easy way for the virus to be spread among the cruisers. Instead, opt for restaurants on the ship where you are served your meals instead of having to serve yourself.
Before you book your cruise, check The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program that collects records of cruise ship norovirus outbreaks, and publishes all reports and inspection results on its website. The CDC inspects cruise ships in periodic, unannounced operational sanitation inspections; monitors gastrointestinal illnesses and investigates outbreaks; and provides education on public health practices to the cruise ship staff and passengers.
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