The surge in popularity of cruise ships has seen an increase in norovirus outbreaks on board. This is due to the fact that vacation-starved Americans are returning to them in record numbers. Royal Caribbean Group, a cruise line with occupancy rates around 100%, has reported a significant recovery in the first quarter 2023. The resurgence of cruise lines has not been without its drawbacks. There have been 13 cases of norovirus outbreaks this year. Also known as ‘cruise virus’, it is highly contagious and can be spread by large groups of people.
1. Cruise travel is in demand: Americans who have been deprived of vacations are returning in large numbers to cruise ships after avoiding it during the pandemic. Royal Caribbean Group, for example, is experiencing 100% occupancy rates in the first quarter 2023. This indicates a surge of popularity in cruise vacations.
2. Increase in norovirus incidences: The increase in cruise ship travel also has contributed to the growth of norovirus. The Wall Street Journal reported thirteen norovirus outbreaks, also called the “cruise ship disease,” this year. This is the most norovirus-related incidents aboard cruise ships since 2012.
3. Norovirus transmission aboard cruise ships. Norovirus is spread by particles in vomit and feces, as well as contaminated surfaces. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes the fact that even a tiny number of norovirus particle can make people sick. Norovirus is spread easily on cruise ships because of the large number of passengers and crew.
Cruise ships are a popular choice for Americans who haven’t had a vacation in years. Royal Caribbean Group and other cruise lines have reported that occupancy rates will reach 100% in the first quarter 2023. This surge in popularity, however, has come with a downside—the rise of norovirus incidents on these ships. The Wall Street Journal reports that there have been thirteen outbreaks. “cruise ship virus” The number of norovirus cases on cruise ships has increased this year to the highest level since 2012.
Norovirus is spread rapidly on cruise ships through the particles in vomit, feces and contaminated surfaces. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “If you get norovirus illness, you can shed billions of norovirus particles that you can’t see without a microscope. It only takes a few norovirus particles to make you and other people sick.”
Norovirus can thrive in confined spaces, especially when there are 6,000 passengers per ship and 2,000 staff members. This is particularly evident in popular summer destinations, such as Alaska, where four large ships docked in Juneau, the capital, accommodating more than 25,000 visitors — surpassing the city’s population.
Last Tuesday, over 100 passengers contracted the virus on a Viking North American Cruise ship docked at New Jersey. Celebrity Cruises also saw a similar outbreak in May when more than 175 passengers were infected on a ship. Cruise ships must report illnesses to CDC. This has allowed for quicker reporting, and increased visibility, for health authorities, regarding outbreaks.
This year’s rebound in the cruise industry coincides with a surge of norovirus outbreaks that cause severe diarrhea and vomiting. The cruise industry must implement strict hygiene measures to prevent the spread of the highly contagious norovirus.