Increased Reports of Norovirus, the '24-Hour Stomach Bug,' are Seen Worldwide

Cruise industry is prepared and offers recommendations for staying healthy

Dec 12, 2006, 00:00 ET from Cruise Lines International Association

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Dec. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- The "24-hour stomach
 bug," also known as norovirus, is on the rise among the general population
 and outbreaks are being reported across the country in hospitals, schools,
 daycare centers and nursing homes, according to Dave Forney, chief of the
 Vessel Sanitation Program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 (CDC). With the high number of norovirus cases being reported in
 California, Minnesota, Canada and Hong Kong, the Cruise Lines International
 Association (CLIA) has observed a corresponding increase in norovirus among
 guests and crew on board cruise ships.
     "Norovirus is not an illness unique to cruise ships, but rather an
 illness commonly seen in many settings throughout the United States,"
 Forney noted. "The reason you hear about norovirus on cruise ships is
 because they are required to report every incidence of gastrointestinal
 illness," Forney said. "There isn't a required national reporting system
 for land-based outbreaks of norovirus in the United States."
     As the second most prevalent illness in the United States, second only
 to the common cold, the CDC estimates that 23 million people -- or 8
 percent of the country's population -- develop symptoms of norovirus
 annually. Each year, less than 1 percent of all cruise ship passengers are
 impacted by norovirus. Whether on land or sea, simple personal hygiene
 practices, such as frequent hand washing, is a strong start to avoiding
 contagion and spreading of the virus.
     "The power of prevention is in your hands -- literally," notes Terry L.
 Dale, president and CEO of CLIA, whose members include 21 cruise lines and
 16,500 North American travel agencies. "The single best piece of advice to
 stay healthy on land or at sea at any time of the year is to wash your
 hands often and thoroughly with warm water and soap."
     Cruise lines have a vested interest in educating their passengers and
 in keeping a 'clean ship' to ensure a great vacation, Dale added.
 "Passengers -- past and future -- should rest assured that their chances of
 getting ill on a cruise are actually far less than going about their every
 day lives."
     Health experts confirm that norovirus on cruise ships is not generally
 sourced from food or water, but rather from direct contact with a person
 with the "stomach bug." It is also passed along indirectly on objects or
 surfaces previously touched by someone with norovirus, such as handrails or
 elevator buttons.
     Cruise lines endlessly clean and sanitize their vessels, Forney noted.
 He has seen the cruise lines take a leadership role in addressing norovirus
 on board: "Cruise ships, which are held to the highest sanitation standards
 in the world, have rigorous protocols and procedures in place to manage and
 eradicate transmission of norovirus."
     These rigorous procedures include disinfecting and sanitizing "high
 touch" public areas such as door handles, railings and elevator buttons.
 Passengers are encouraged to wash their hands frequently and
 hand-sanitizers are offered on some ships. The CDC and cruise lines also
 recommend that cruise guests minimize their contact with others during the
 period when the illness is likely to be passed on. If a passenger is
 experiencing symptoms, they are well advised to follow the medical staff's
 recommendations to prevent the spread of illness.
     Symptoms of the illness include diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps
 and may last from one to two days. The most common way of transmission is
 through person-to-person contact.
     It is highly recommended that travelers experiencing norovirus symptoms
 prior to their cruise contact the cruise line before sailing to see if
 alternative cruising options are available.
     For tips on how to stay healthy on your cruise vacation, more
 information on norovirus and proper hand washing techniques, please visit
 the CDC Web site at or the Vessel Sanitation Program's Web site
     About CLIA
     The nonprofit Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is North
 America's largest cruise industry organization. CLIA represents the
 interests of 21 member lines and participates in the regulatory and policy
 development process while supporting measures that foster a safe, secure
 and healthy cruise ship environment. CLIA is also engaged in travel agent
 training, research and marketing communications to promote the value and
 desirability of cruise vacations and counts as members nearly 16,500 travel
 agencies. For more information on CLIA, the cruise industry, and
 CLIA-member cruise lines and travel agencies, visit

SOURCE Cruise Lines International Association