The Holland America cruise ship Volendam recently suffered a norovirus outbreak, which sickened several dozen passengers.
According to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 68 passengers and 1 crew member were sickened on the ship’s sailing from July 12 – July 19. Norovirus is a gastrointestinal illness which can cause extreme cases of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Norovirus has been known to be resistant to disinfectants, and one study showed that the virus can remain active for up to several weeks after having been treated with disinfectants. This is an important point because many cruise companies’ primary line of defense against norovirus outbreaks is to do a “deep clean” of the ship and disinfect it, hoping to kill or remove every trace of the virus in the process.
Because cruise companies often disembark one group of passengers in the morning, and load the next group on in the afternoon, it is common for the second group to become sickened if the first group had experienced a norovirus outbreak.
Perhaps most disturbing is that norovirus is found in the vomit and stool of infected people, and is primarily spread by person to person contact.