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U.S. officials probe illnesses on Caribbean cruise

More Than 300 Sick On Royal Caribbean Cruise

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) - U.S. health officials will board a cruise ship docked in the U.S. Virgin Islands to investigate an illness outbreak that has stricken at least 300 people with gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea, a cruise company spokeswoman said Sunday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that 281, or nearly 10 percent, of the 3,050 passengers aboard Royal Caribbean International's Explorer of the Seas have reported getting sick. Twenty-two 22 crew members also report feeling ill.

In a Sunday morning statement, company spokeswoman Janet Diaz said CDC officials are expected to soon board the towering, 15-deck ship making a port call in St. Thomas, the main island of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

At least two CDC officials - an epidemiologist and an environmental health officer - are expected to do an investigation and evaluate the outbreak response on the cruise liner. The U.S. health agency did not immediately respond to a Sunday email and a call seeking comment about the work aboard the ship.

During the previous port call in Puerto Rico, the ship underwent "extensive and thorough sanitizing" to help prevent more people from getting sick, said the spokeswoman. It bypassed a scheduled stop to the company's fenced-in beach destination in northern Haiti to sail directly to Puerto Rico's capital.

"This was a difficult decision to make; however, we feel it is best to make this itinerary medication to help prevent any more guests from becoming ill," Diaz said.

Meanwhile, the passengers and crew who fell ill have "responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered onboard the ship," she said.

Symptoms of norovirus include vomiting and diarrhea, which is what the cruise ship passengers have reported. It spreads quickly in close quarters and is known for afflicting schools and cruise ships. Diaz said special cleaning products and disinfectants that are proven to kill norovirus are being used to clean the Explorer of the Seas.

In a Sunday statement, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the U.S. Virgin Islands' tourism commissioner, said the territory was grateful for the "CDC's quick response" and St. Thomas was ready to welcome ship passengers cleared to disembark.

On Friday, an Explorer of the Seas passenger named Arnee Dodd tweeted that she had fallen ill aboard the ship and was quarantined with the other sick people. The Connecticut woman wrote that ship employees "put a lock down on food & are constantly cleaning everything."

It was not immediately clear how many passengers, if any, were still being quarantined on Sunday.

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bpear26848 January 26 2014 at 4:33 PM

Interesing that this only seems to strike in cruise ships and schools. On 22 cruises we have never encountered it, but always observe the constant reminders to use antibiotic lotion.

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vd500 January 26 2014 at 4:52 PM

The same things can be spread everywhere: resorts, restaurants, homes, camps etc. This situation is just more noticeable because of the vast number of people together at the same time. We take chances every day stepping out of our houses too. Just can' t live that way!!!
Then if you don't go to great places you feel more sick. Travel, enjoy and have fun!

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1 reply
klagden vd500 January 26 2014 at 4:57 PM

totally agree. this is nothing new just wash your hands and keep your hands away from your face plus use the sanitizer available

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Bernie January 26 2014 at 10:12 PM

Let me see…. Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas….. and the lead AOL pic is of P & O Orient’s Grand Princess……with “Carribean Cruise Illness Outbreak plastered all over it… Nice publicity for P & O eh? Getting to be typical AOL / Huff Post reporting

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susan815917 January 26 2014 at 4:53 PM

I just got off Brilliance of the Seas on Thursday, although I wasn't sick like those people, I did have some issues w/this cruise line!

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kc40l January 26 2014 at 10:07 PM

It's true, Royal Caribbean keeps their ship very clean and people who are sick should not get on the ship!

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thisdevelopment January 26 2014 at 10:02 PM

My husband & I have been on 3 cruises & the only thing that happened to us (well, only me) was motion sickness the 1st day.

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1 reply
buddyboygabe thisdevelopment January 26 2014 at 10:13 PM

been on 6th so far and 7th just around corner, NEVER had a problem, except ONE heart attack patient. Hope that, "NEVER" have to experience in this situation, BUT, life is nothing but a challenge, accept as it comes, and hang loose, enjoy it while you can!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
tmpm2461 January 26 2014 at 10:01 PM

RC always does a wonderful job of keeping there ships clean. Too many come on board with a sickness and when asked....they claim to be healthy. They are the cause of infection that spreads so quickly. Stay home when you're having a problem!

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1 reply
steves1709 tmpm2461 January 26 2014 at 10:20 PM

Only if they have a simple rescheduling policy.

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1 reply
brunie65 steves1709 January 26 2014 at 11:04 PM

Good point. As long as it's difficult to reschedule and/or get a refund people will be inclined to go even when they're sick.

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panache999 January 26 2014 at 4:56 PM

Cruising is an amazing experience. I have cruised with Celebrity & Royal Caribbean for nearly two decades and never had any experience with large numbers of people getting sick on a cruise. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens while cruising and while flying, as well, but it would never prevent me and my family from taking trips via cruising. Our next cruise is with Royal Caribbean in a couple three months and I do not foresee canceling and why we always take the insurance plan offered. I am sad to hear that 300 passengers became ill and hope that they will recover soon. and that Royal will offer some sort of compensation to those passengers who became afflicted as they are a top notch organization. No need to panic...

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Brad January 26 2014 at 4:58 PM

If everyone washed their hands after using the toilet and before eating the chances of a norovirus outbreak would significantly decrease....But, no...people don't wash their hands and vehemently refuse to sanitize their hands before entering dining venues.

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2 replies
James Brad January 26 2014 at 5:13 PM

It is more than toilet and dining. Hand rails, elevators, telephones, any contact can spred the virus. We caught it in a hotel in Amman Jordan. Use the hand sanitizer at least once an hour and don't touch anything you don't have to. I am a veteran traveller and a tour host. I preach this constantly to my guests.

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buffalogal Brad January 26 2014 at 5:18 PM

Oh, so true.
I have witnessed individuals exit restrooms without washing their hands.
This was in a hospital.

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M I C H A E L January 26 2014 at 5:00 PM

I AGREE, SHIPS HAVE SUCH A FAST TURN AROUND, THAT NO HUMAN CAN CLEAN THOSE BIG SHIPS IN 4 HOURS. I VE BEEN ON SEVERAL SHIP 6 ROYAL CARRIBEAN AROUND THE CARRIBEAN, AND 1 HOLLAND AMERICA SHIP AROUND ALASKA,,,AND HAVE NEVER GOTTEN SICK. A SHIP DOESNT MAKE ANY MONEY, WHEN IT SITS IN PORT. BUT, I THINK DOWN ONE DAY A WEEK TO CLEAN EFFECTIVELY , WOULDNT BE A BAD IDEA. THE NEW LARGER CLASS SHIPS HOLD ALOT OF PEOPLE, I JUST HOPE AND PRAY, NONE GET SICK ENOUGH TO DIE. GOD BLESS THEM ALL.....

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