Hundreds fall ill on cruise ship

Explorer of the Seas
Outbreak on Explorer of the Seas

Stop before you get on that Royal Caribbean cruise ship. In what seems to now be a regular occurrence, a major cruise ship line reports widespread illness among passengers. Royal Caribbean Line’s “Explorer of  the Sea” reported that 281 passengers and 22 crew are suffering from vomiting and diarrhea. This is the second outbreak for the Royal Caribbean Line. Just one week ago a similar outbreak occurred on the “Majesty of the Seas.” On that trip, 66 passengers fell sick on a four day cruise of Key West, Florida and the Bahamas.  The Explorer of  the Seas left Cape Liberty, New Jersey on January 21 and is scheduled  to make stops in St. Thomas and  St. Maarten. The ship did not make a stop in Haiti as planned and instead sailed directly to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was alerted and responded:

 “A CDC Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officer and an epidemiologist will board the ship in St. Thomas, USVI on January 26, 2014 to conduct an epidemiologic investigation, environmental health  assessment, and evaluate the outbreak and response activities. Specimens are being collected and will be sent to the CDC lab for testing.”

While in Puerto Rico, the ship was cleaned with special chemicals designed to kill the norovirus, a possible cause of the outbreak. Norovirus causes gastroenteritis, which has been a cause of sickness on other cruise ship outbreaks. In 2013, authorities reported a total of 22 outbreaks on different cruise lines that   resulted in a total of 2,385 passengers and crew affected. This number is down almost a third from the 34 outbreaks that occurred in 2012. For a cruise ship passenger getting sick at sea can turn a dream vacation to an unforgettable hell, if you do not take out travel insurance.  Most cruise ships are registered in foreign countries. Because of this medical emergencies such as helicopter evacuation are not covered by most  insurance companies. The price on helicopter evacuation can range from $10-50,000, which can  financially devastate an individual. Buying a good travel insurance policy can avoid this situation.

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