Hundreds of passengers on UK cruise ship fall ill with norovirus

More than a quarter of passengers on board the cruise liner have been affected by the highly contagious vomiting bug

Rachael Pells
Monday 09 May 2016 11:43 BST
The Balmoral cruise ship left Southampton on April 8, before making stops in Portugal, Bermuda and the USA
The Balmoral cruise ship left Southampton on April 8, before making stops in Portugal, Bermuda and the USA (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Hundreds of passengers on board a British cruise ship have fallen in with norovirus, health officials have confirmed.

At least 252 passengers and eight members of staff on board the Balmoral’s “Old England to New England” cruise have fallen ill with the stomach virus since leaving Southampton last month.

Now on its way to the Canadian province of New Brunswick, the ship has undergone inspections by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to the ship’s owners, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

The company said in a statement: “Balmoral has now left the US and is due to arrive in Saint John, New Brunswick later today [9th May 2016]. At no point has Balmoral been quarantined in any port on this cruise, and is continuing as planned.”

“Fred. Olsen has been undertaking extensive sanitisation measures and cleaning of the ship, following the company's strict illness containment and prevention plan.”

The Balmoral, which contains mostly British holidaymakers, has suffered similar outbreaks in previous years.

Evidence of the norovirus was confirmed on board while the ship was docked in Baltimore last week, where experts from the CDC carried out an environmental health assessment to evaluate the outbreak.

Despite the CDC proposing action including increased cleaning and disinfection procedures, the number of incidences later soared to more than a quarter of those on board.

Fred. Olsen said it believed the highly-contagious gastric illness was brought onto the ship, and is spread by person-to-person or surface-to-surface contact.

For this reason, outbreaks of the illness are most commonly found in areas such as hotels, schools and hospitals, as well as cruise ships, where a high volume of people are in close confines.

On Monday [May 9], a Fred Olsen spokesperson said the number of guests who have been confined to their cabins with the virus had reduced to just 15 out of a total of 1,434 guests and crew members on board, but the figure is yet to be confirmed by health experts.

In 2010, at least 310 people on board the Balmoral were reported to be suffering from a vomiting virus when the ship docked in Los Angeles.

A confirmed outbreak of the winter vomiting virus hit more than 100 people on the same ship during a cruise of Scotland in 2009.

The DCD has reported 10 outbreaks on ships docked in the US so far this year, compared with 12 for the entirety of 2015.

Fred. Olsen said it was “co-operating fully with all the necessary maritime agencies and authorities, and will continue to make every effort possible to ensure the safety and well-being of all its guests and crew on board, which is of paramount ‎importance”.

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