Cruise Ship Crew responsible for spreading Norovirus between voyages?

Mar 08, 2018

A recent study released by the US Royal Society Open Science conducted on a cruise ship claims that the usual sanitation measures such as cleaning and isolating people affected by Norovirus, don't do much to protect existing and oncoming passengers and crew on board. A computer-based model of a norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship suggests that the crew could be responsible for spreading the bug between voyages to new passengers. You can read here the study “Quantifying the relative effects of environmental and direct transmission of norovirus.”

The study was conducted by a group of scientist on 2,400 passengers and 999 crew members during a six-week period. According to research, the first two weekly voyages recorded the largest number of acute gastroenteritis cases on board, caused by the norovirus. 

The cruise ship was sanitized according to Vessel Sanitation Program between the boarding of new passengers, however, the Norovirus cases continued on subsequent cruises, although at a decreased level and caused by several strains of norovirus instead of the original, single strain.

The researchers concluded that the initial Norovirus outbreak may have been due to potential food contamination (since the strain was the same), but the secondary cases were likely due to person-to-person infection, with the crew potentially spreading the bug from one voyage to another despite the high hygiene measures undertaken between the embarkations.

The study found that VSP procedures of cleaning and isolating ill people in their cabins appeared to have little impact, concluding that personal hygiene measures such as hand washing were the most effective in preventing the spread of GI.

What do you think, are crew member playing a key role in gastro outbreaks on cruise ships? Have you been affected by Norovirus on a cruise ship? Let us know in the comments box below.