US officials probe illnesses on Caribbean cruise (Update)

January 26, 2014 by David Mcfadden
Passengers from a motorcycle cruises' tour group, prepare to board the Royal Caribbean International's Explorer of the Seas, docked at Charlotte Amalie Harbor in St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. Health officials have boarded the cruise liner to investigate an illness outbreak that has stricken at least 300 people with gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. Over 13 of the 34 motorcycle riders fell ill during the trip. (AP Photo/Thomas Layer)

U.S. health officials on Sunday boarded a cruise ship docked in the U.S. Virgin Islands to investigate an illness outbreak that has stricken at least 300 people with gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that 281, or nearly 10 percent, of the 3,050 passengers aboard Royal Caribbean International's Explorer of the Seas have reported getting sick during a Caribbean cruise that left Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Tuesday. Twenty-two crew members also reported feeling ill.

Janet Diaz, spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said CDC representatives boarded the towering, 15-deck ship as it made a port call in St. Thomas, the main island of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

At least two CDC officials, an epidemiologist and an environmental health officer, were expected to do the investigation and evaluate the outbreak response on the cruise liner. The U.S. health agency had not responded Sunday to an email and a call seeking comment about the work aboard the ship.

During the previous port call in Puerto Rico, the ship underwent "extensive and thorough sanitizing" to help prevent more people from getting sick, the company spokeswoman said. The ship bypassed a scheduled stop at the company's fenced-in beach destination in northern Haiti to sail directly to Puerto Rico's capital.

"This was a difficult decision to make; however, we feel it is best to make this itinerary modification to help prevent any more guests from becoming ill," Diaz said.

A West Indian Company employee removes a yellow caution barricade tape from around the Royal Caribbean International's Explorer of the Seas crusie ship, docked at Charlotte Amalie Harbor in St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. U.S. health officials have boarded the cruise ship to investigate an illness outbreak that has stricken at least 300 people with gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. (AP Photo/Thomas Layer)

The passengers and crew who fell ill have "responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered onboard the ship," she said.

Fast-spreading norovirus is often to blame for similar symptoms sweeping closed quarters like those on cruise ships, but a determination will likely have to wait until samples are tested in a lab. Diaz said special cleaning products and disinfectants that are proven to kill norovirus are being used to clean the ship.

In a Sunday statement, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the U.S. Virgin Islands' tourism commissioner, said the territory was grateful for the CDC's "quick response" and St. Thomas was ready to welcome ship passengers cleared to disembark.

On Friday, an Explorer of the Seas passenger named Arnee Dodd tweeted that she had fallen ill aboard the ship and was quarantined with the other sick people. The Connecticut woman wrote that ship employees "put a lock down on food & are constantly cleaning everything."

Jennifer Esposito and Michael Lamicela prepare to board the Royal Caribbean International's Explorer of the Seas, docked at Charlotte Amalie Harbor in St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. Health officials have boarded the cruise liner to investigate an illness outbreak that has stricken at least 300 people with gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. Esposito was one of the passengers that fell ill during the cruise. "The ship was rough and I just though it was sea sickness until the captain announced there was a nerovirus," said Exposito. (AP Photo/Thomas Layer).

It was not clear if any passengers were still being quarantined Sunday.

The ship's next scheduled stop is the Dutch Caribbean country of St. Maarten.

Explore further: 281 passengers ill aboard Royal Caribbean ship

Related Stories

281 passengers ill aboard Royal Caribbean ship

January 25, 2014
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 281 passengers have fallen ill aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

19 ill in suspected norovirus outbreak on liner

December 28, 2012
Nineteen people aboard the cruise ship Queen Mary 2 have been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal illness as the liner docked Friday in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

Wave of illness subsides on Caribbean cruise

January 2, 2013
The cruise line that operates the Queen Mary 2 says an apparent outbreak of gastrointestinal illness has subsided as the ship heads back to port.

Vomiting bug-hit cruise ship back in Britain

December 14, 2012
A liner hit by the winter vomiting bug during a pre-Christmas cruise arrived back in port in England on Friday after one passenger dubbed it a "plague ship".

Suspected norovirus hits 400 on two Christmas cruises

December 30, 2012
An outbreak of vomiting and diarrhea has sickened more than 400 vacationers and crew members aboard two Christmas-time cruises in the Caribbean, the CDC said Saturday.

Recommended for you

A large-scale 'germ trap' solution for hospitals

July 26, 2017
When an infectious airborne illness strikes, some hospitals use negative pressure rooms to isolate and treat patients. These rooms use ventilation controls to keep germ-filled air contained rather than letting it circulate ...

Male hepatitis B patients suffer worse liver ailments, regardless of lifestyle

July 25, 2017
Why men with hepatitis B remain more than twice as likely to develop severe liver disease than women remains a mystery, even after a study led by a recent Drexel University graduate took lifestyle choices and environments ...

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Researchers report new system to study chronic hepatitis B

July 25, 2017
Scientists from Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology have successfully tested a cell-culture system that will allow researchers to perform laboratory-based studies of long-term hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections. ...

Research examines lung cell turnover as risk factor and target for treatment of influenza pneumonia

July 24, 2017
Influenza is a recurring global health threat that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths every year, most due to influenza pneumonia, or viral pneumonia. Infection with ...

Scientists propose novel therapy to lessen risk of obesity-linked disease

July 24, 2017
With obesity related illnesses a global pandemic, researchers propose in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using a blood thinner to target molecular drivers of chronic metabolic inflammation in people eating high-fat ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.