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Norovirus: Nuggets From A Message Board

Maybe it's just generational but we're not really big fans of message boards, where readers pose as writers and sound off about whatever is on their minds, often unloading some deep-seated anger or satisfying an urge to be heard. 

Sometimes, however, they are valuable information sources.

One such example is cruise passengers reporting to Cruise Law News on the most recent outbreak of norovirus. The illness, which affected more than 400 Royal Caribbean customers on the Explorer of the Seas prior to the weekend, is big enough to make it as the top story this weekend on CNN.

At Cruise Law News, maritime lawyer Jim Walker is an advocate for cruise passengers and while not all of his readers endorse his content — whose readers ever do? — the comments about norovirus provide some interesting insight once you sift through the trivial ones.

Yes, we did.

Jim WalkerWalker posed five multiple choices about the causes of cruise norovirus:

A. Passengers not washing hands
B. Crew working while sick
C. Contaminated food or water
D. Combination of the above
E. Who cares?

Having sifted through the trivial comments, here are some nuggets that shed light on this controversial subject…

Janice Cavanaugh: People boarding the ship when they know they are sick but don't want to miss their vacation. Crew hardly ever gets this. It's the guests that carry it onboard.

Stojan Mitkov: I am working 7 years on ships and I never get Norovirus even when there was cases of it. So just respect the point A.

Susan Equinista Van Dusen: Our most recent Royal Princess cruise hard working super nice crew begging guests to sanitize and wash…nope…many either ignored them or made rude remarks. Ship was super clean and gorgeous…passengers were the issue.

Jason Coleman: E…who cares! Would love to see people give this much attention to Norovirus outbreaks at schools and workplaces!

Patty Clements Goodell: My husband is on that ship and apparently it started on the previous cruise! The B2Bs transferred it to this cruise. No one knew of the problem on the previous cruise.

Karla Hart: Given the long and widespread history of this type of illness on these large ships, the blame rests with the cruise lines to figure out how to stop the problem. Change equipment, procedures, policies, whatever it takes.

Angelo Alonso: All of them are important topics, they don't care.

Christian Long: The standards of the sanitation on the ships exceeds the level of sanitation in your household. FYI, I worked on Explorer, [and] they have sanitizers all over the ship, but guests don’t use [them].

Celebrity Millennium
7 nights
May 23, 2014
VancouverKetchikan, Icy Strait Point, JuneauSkagway, Hubbard Glacier, Anchorage
Inside: $729
Cost per day: $104

Norovirus vaccine results looking good: More clinical trials before it's available

Rightly or not, norovirus is known as the "cruise ship virus" because almost every time it surfaces in a public way, it's on a cruise ship. It also happens wherever large numbers of people gather, particularly in fairly confined spaces, and you need no other proof that it is not confined to ships than this one from a recent study: "The overall cost of the disease in the U.S. is $5.5 billion a year."

That's right, billion. That's also right, every year. Imagine what would happen to the cruise industry if this disease was exclusive to cruise passengers.

Having written that, as they say, anything that can eradicate the norovirus is good. Maybe not eradicate, but reduce it. And according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an experimental vaccine appears to be working.

Or helping.

The CDC reported that the vaccine's first trial reduced vomiting and diarrhea by 52 per cent among people who contracted norovirus. There are still more clinical trials needed before the vaccine becomes available. The study was presented this month at IDWeek2013, a conference on infectious diseases in San Francisco.

So things are going in the right direction.

This is of interest to anyone who goes on cruises, in particular people who have — like one of us — compromised immune systems that leave you more susceptible to infection.

Last week, there was another report about norovirus (see cruiselawnews.com) about many passengers and crew on the Celebrity Summit. Whether the report is true or not, it didn't reflect well on Celebrity, the latest cruise line to be stricken with the bug.

And it emphasized, once again, why the vaccine is so important.

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
7 nights
November 17, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon CayGrand CaymanCozumelKey West
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

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