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Norovirus Outbreak & Prevention

How to Avoid Catching a Nasty Norovirus on the Road

Norovirus is sometimes called the “stomach flu,” although it is not related to the flu (a common respiratory illness cause by the influenza virus). Seven cruise ships from North American ports have reported gastrointestinal outbreaks to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since January 1. Last year, 28 ships had a total of 36 outbreaks, which the CDC defines as illness rates of 3% or higher among passengers or crew. This week alone, three ships — Holland America Line's Veendam and Ryndam and Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas — are reporting outbreaks affecting between 4.4% and 21% of passengers.

Symptoms caused by noroviruses

Common symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, some stomach cramping

Less common symptoms: low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, nausea, and tiredness

Norovirus Shown Above :
a common respiratory illness cause by the influenza virus

This illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. Normally the illness lasts about one to two days. Children often vomit more than adults.

Where noroviruses are found

Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people and on infected surfaces that have been touched by ill people. Outbreaks occur more often where there are more people in a small area, such as nursing homes, restaurants, catered events, and cruise ships.

Why noroviruses are associated with cruise ships

  • Health officials track illness on cruise ships. Therefore, outbreaks are found and reported more quickly on a cruise ship than on land.

  • Close living quarters may increase the amount of group contact.

  • New passenger arrivals may bring the virus to other passengers and crew.

  • How noroviruses are spread

    People can become infected with the virus by:

    • Eating food or drinking liquids infected with noroviruses.

    • Touching surfaces or objects infected with noroviruses and then touching own mouth, nose, or eyes having person-to-person contact (with a norovirus-infected person) by:

    • being present while someone is vomiting

    • sharing food or eating from the same utensils

    • caring for a sick person

    • shaking hands

    • not washing hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.

    Norovirus infections are not usually serious

    Noroviruses are highly contagious, but infections are not usually serious. People may feel very sick and vomit often or get diarrhea, becoming dehydrated if lost liquids are not replaced. Most people recover within one or two days and have no long-term adverse health effects.

    What to do if you get norovirus

    Advise the medical staff of your illness. Drink plenty of fluids. Wash hands often.

    How to prevent getting and spreading noroviruses

    • Wash hands often. Wash hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food. Wash hands more often when someone in your home is sick. For hand washing tips click the following link:

    • Avoid shaking hands during outbreaks.

    • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer along with handwashing.

    For more information, visit