Cruise Ships and Disease

One quarter of passengers on a British cruise ship got norovirus.

Historic Cuba Cruise Returns to US with suspected outbreak.

Dozens of Star Princess Passengers Sickened by Stomach Bug

With headlines like that why would you travel on a cruise line?

We have taken several cruise trips and are taking a cruise from Alaska to Vancouver soon. I have been impressed with the attention to food safety on cruise lines. But remember you are at risk as the quarters are close.

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Norovirus is the most common contagion on a cruise ship. Unfortunately Norovirus may be resistant to hand sanitizers. Doubly unfortunate is we now know it can be spread not only by food or touch but can be airborne. We know that Norovirus can travel up to 1 meter or about 1 yard in the air.

What can you do to reduce your risk?

  1. Wash your hands frequently. Remember everything you touch has been touched by someone else. That person could have been sick. Don’t touch railings, door nobs, etc unless you need to. Wash your hands before you eat.
  2. When selecting food from the buffet, be cautious about foods that are exposed without a shield or can easily be handled by the passengers.
  3. Don’t eat it if it isn’t properly cooked.
  4. Avoid risky foods that are at room temperature for hours.
  5. If you see a staff member who appears sick, report them to the cruise supervisor. I did this on a cruise in the Pacific Ocean. Who knows how many people I saved from getting sick.
  6. If you see a fellow passenger who is sick avoid them and if you are really concerned report them. They don’t have a right to get anyone else sick.
  7. If you get sick be honest and isolate yourself, follow the cruise line directions and don’t contaminate someone else.

Just be conscientious. Don’t be afraid. Just be cautious and have fun.

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Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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