Norovirus suspected in cruise ship illness

Vomiting, diarrhea afflicted 125 aboard the Celebrity boat

Posted: Thursday, July 20, 2006

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - For the second time this summer, a wave of illness believed to be from norovirus has hit a Celebrity Cruise ship along the Alaska coastal route, health officials said.

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Kevin Carlisle, a Health Canada environmental health officer, said nausea, vomiting and diarrhea afflicted 105 of the 2,282 passengers and 20 of the 952 crew members on the company's ship Infinity, which returned to Vancouver on Sunday from a seven-day Alaskan cruise.

Those who were ill responded well to treatment, according to a company statement.

Carlisle said the symptoms were consistent with norovirus, which was blamed for illness among 115 people on the Celebrity Cruise ship Mercury during a weeklong cruise between Seattle and Alaska in June.

Later in June a 37-year-old American woman complaining of severe abdominal pains was taken by a Canadian military helicopter from the Mercury, which was near the north end of Vancouver Island, to a hospital on the island. It was not clear whether that ailment was norovirus.

The short-term but uncomfortable illness is as prevalent in the general population as on cruise ships, Carlisle said. While it is not considered a serious ailment, "it is a public health issue because of the number of people impacted," he said.

After the episode in June, Celebrity Cruises blamed an increased in norovirus cases on land for the increase on their ships. The company instituted a new illness prevention program focusing on increased sanitation, enhanced cleaning procedures and special cleaning of "high touch" areas.

The company also added two additional doctors to Mercury's crew, bringing the total number of doctors on the ship to four, along with three nurses.

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