Hundreds fall ill on Queen Mary II luxury Christmas cruise

By David Ferguson
Saturday, December 29, 2012 11:15 EDT
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Queen Mary II via screencap
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Passengers on an exclusive Christmas cruise on the Queen Mary II have been stricken with diarrhea, nausea and vomiting in an outbreak of what is suspected to be the second occurrence of norovirus to strike a luxury liner in recent weeks. The U.K.’s Daily Mail reported that as of Saturday morning, 189 passengers and 31 crew members on the ship had developed symptoms consistent with the highly contagious stomach bug, with more cases expected.

The ship left New York City on Saturday, December 22, bound for a 12-day tour of the Caribbean Islands. On that day, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control were informed that passengers had fallen ill on the Emerald Princess, another luxury cruise liner currently at sea. The CDC received word on Christmas Day that passengers on the Queen Mary II were also sick.

Sailing vessels are required to notify the CDC any time more than 2 percent of passengers become ill with a gastrointestinal illness.

Norovirus causes acute gastroenteritis, inflammation of the digestive tract resulting in stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms are characterized by their rapid and sometimes violent onset and typically last 1 to 3 days.

Each year, said the CDC, norovirus “causes about 21 million illnesses and contributes to about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths.” Because the virus is particularly contagious and hardy, it spreads rapidly in situations where people are in close contact, like cruise ships, military barracks and college dorms.

The Queen Mary II is currently docked in St. Maarten with 2,613 passengers and 1,255 crew members on board. The ship is owned by the Cunard line, which is run by Carnival Cruises.

The norovirus has not yet been specifically identified as the culprit in the outbreaks on the Emerald Princess and the Queen Mary II, but thus far, both outbreaks have been consistent with previous norovirus incidents.

Passengers are urged to stay in their cabins and avoid contact with other passengers, particularly if they are feeling ill. They have been asked not to go ashore while the ship is docked. A Cunard spokesperson told the Mail that room service is available to passengers who are ill and that every effort is made to keep them as comfortable as possible.

During outbreaks, the ship’s crew take on special cleaning and disinfection procedures. Medical personnel are now on site trying to assess the type and number of infections.

The $900 million Queen Mary II features an onboard spa, a library, a planetarium, a theater and 15 restaurants and bars. The pricier tickets can run as much as $4,700.

Watch video about this story, embedded via ABC News, below:

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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