Norovirus suspected in Alaska cruise illness

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It’s early in the cruise season for a norovirus outbreak but at least Veendam does not call on Puget Sound.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008 – Page updated at 12:00 AM


A suspected norovirus outbreak on a Holland America cruise ship left 112 passengers ill in Seward, Alaska, according to the state Division…

McClatchy Newspapers

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A suspected norovirus outbreak on a Holland America cruise ship left 112 passengers ill in Seward, Alaska, according to the state Division of Public Health.

The outbreak affected about 8 ½ percent of the 1,313 passengers on board, with 12 of the 556 crew members also reporting the illness, said epidemiologist Beth Funk.

The rumors of an outbreak followed the Veendam from port to port and prompted media inquiries through last week.

But it wasn’t until Monday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got the report, which is required to be filed when more than 3 percent of the passengers become ill, Funk said.

Passengers initially began getting sick in Haines, Alaska, when about 20 people reported the illness, she said. The vessel also ported in the Alaska cities of Juneau and Sitka before moving on the Seward.

Funk said she didn’t think the virus had yet been tested to confirm it was norovirus, but she suspected it was, based upon the symptoms.

Norovirus is a gastrointestinal ailment that usually causes vomiting and diarrhea, and lasts between 24 and 48 hours. It’s highly contagious, making a closed environment like a cruise ship a prime setting for an outbreak.

Such outbreaks are relatively common on cruise ships for that reason, Funk said, and the vessels are usually sanitized before more passengers board to prevent subsequent outbreaks.

The Veendam berthed in Seward Friday and the number of ill passengers prompted a local public health nurse to put out a preventive bulletin about hand-washing, according to Seward city manager Phillip Oates.

A spokeswoman for Seattle-based Holland America could not be reached for comment Monday.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

~ by fredfelleman on June 24, 2008.

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