TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO- An illness causing vomiting and diarrhoea has affected more than 300 passengers and crew members on the Ruby Princess.
According to CruiseMapper, Princess Cruises carried about 4000 people on its voyage from February 26 to Sunday (Monday NZT) in the western Caribbean.
In a statement, Princess Cruises said the cause is likely norovirus, although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not listed a specific virus.
According to the CDC, about 10% of passengers and 3% of crew members were sick.
“At the first sign of an increase in the numbers of passengers reporting to the medical centre with gastrointestinal illness, we immediately initiated additional enhanced sanitisation procedures to interrupt the person-to-person spread of this virus,” Princess Cruises said in a statement.
As part of its preparation for the next voyage, the company said the ship underwent an additional disinfection.
The Ruby Princess outbreak is the fourth gastrointestinal illness outbreak on a cruise this year. Among the first, a months-long voyage by P&O Cruises (owned by Carnival) that ends in April was affected by norovirus.
According to the CDC, 86 passengers and 20 crew members fell ill aboard the Arcadia. In addition to this year’s Royal Caribbean cruise, two other cruises have also had outbreaks.
Cruises were following enhanced cleaning and safety protocols to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, which resulted in fewer outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness than pre-pandemic years. Four outbreaks were reported in 2022. One was held in 2021, though cruises didn’t resume sailing until June.
Ten cases of gastro illness were reported by the CDC in 2019, the last full year of cruising before the pandemic. Eight of these cases were caused by norovirus. Between 2017 and 2019, cruise lines reported 32 outbreaks, though overall cases have declined.
“Norovirus can be especially challenging to control on cruise ships because of the close living quarters, shared dining areas, and rapid turnover of passengers,” the CDC says on its website. “When the ship docks, norovirus can be brought on board in contaminated food or water or by passengers who were infected while ashore.”
CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program has monitored gastrointestinal illnesses within the industry since 1975, after “an excessive number” of outbreaks.