We should not be so quick to assume that a cruise ship is pre 'infected' or 'dirty' when an illness affects a group of guests. Cruise ships aren't the only places where large groups of people are likely to get together and outbreaks of "flu" and the "24-hour stomach bug" are common in such places as schools, nursing homes, and even in hospitals. According to Princess Cruises, "Statistics have shown that the chance of contracting Norovirus on land is 1 in 12; and 1 in 4000 on a cruise ship."
Cruising brings together large numbers of people from different parts of the world. In confined quarters, certain diseases can quickly spread from person-to-person contact. It is even quite possible that some passengers who become ill during a cruise were infected prior to boarding and they were actually ill before their symptoms became apparent. While most people are unaware that they have contracted an illness before embarking, others know they are sick but go aboard anyway, not acknowledging their illness for fear of being denied boarding. They might not seek treatment once on board due to the threat of being confined to their staterooms. These passengers can be the beginning of a ship board epidemic! Can this be fair that other passengers and staff should suffer due to their decision to keep quiet? Is it also fair that the cruise line should suffer the tarnish to their reputation and costs too? Well i dont think so! We should all take a little more responsibility for the health and safety of others as well as ourselves. The first thing is to be aware how we can identify, prevent and treat such illnesses.
Two of the most prevalent diseases that spread through cruise ships are Flu and Noroviruses. Norovirus is often termed the "cruise ship virus," even thought the vast majority 60%-80% of outbreaks occur on land. However, it is often just more obvious on cruise ships because all sick passengers and crewmembers are treated by the same doctor, who is required to prepare a special report if an outbreak affects 2% or more of the passengers or crew.
Symptoms of a Norovirus
The symptoms of norovirus infection will begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected. The illness is self-limiting and the symptoms will last for 12 to 60 hours. They will start with the sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs. Most people make a full recovery within 1-2 days, however some people (usually the very young or elderly) may become very dehydrated and require hospital treatment.
There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
Prevention Good hygiene is essential and particularly in the presence of diseased people. The most important thing you can do is to wash your hands regularly. A waterless, sanitizing hand cleaner is also recommended (they are effective and come in travel size bottles). Milton Antibacterial Hand Gel is quite a good one although there are many on the market. In the event of an outbreak, the cruise line will implement basic hygiene and food handling measures and promptly disinfect of contaminated areas.
If you get sick, seek medical treatment immediately and try not to infect other passengers by limiting yourself to your cabin and avoiding public areas. If you havent travelled yet but are planning to and begin to feel unwell, it is best for all that you visit your G.P. and seek thier advice. As long as you have adequate travel insurance, in the event of having to cancel your trip, you should be covered for a refund.
(Exerts taken from the Health Protection Agency website)