May 10, 2016

    No smooth sailing for British ship, over 25% of passengers fall ill


    A STOMACH bug causing vomiting and diarrhoea has spread to more than a quarter of the 919 passengers aboard a British cruise ship, the United States Centres for Disease Control (CDC) said, as the vessel docked in Maine over the weekend.

    It added that eight of the 520 crew on the Balmoral, operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, had also fallen ill with the bug, identified as a norovirus.

    The Balmoral left Southampton, England, on April 16 for a 34-day cruise, making stops in Portugal and Bermuda before arriving at Norfolk, Virginia, in the US late last month.

    CDC officials said at that time that 153 passengers and six crew had been infected by norovirus. Health officials and an epidemiologist boarded the ship at its next stop in Baltimore to assess the outbreak and the response.

    The CDC said specimens collected and onboard tested positive for norovirus, and would be subjected to additional testing.

    Fred Olsen said in an April 29 statement that a "gastro-enteritis type illness" had affected a number of guests, with seven cases in isolation at that point.

    It added that two US nationals were on board, with the majority of passengers from Britain.

    When the Balmoral docked at Portland, Maine, over the weekend, media reported witnesses seeing surfaces being constantly wiped down.

    CDC said the cruise line had taken actions in response to the outbreak, including increasing cleaning and disinfection procedures.

    Balmoral has capacity for 1,350 passengers, and is the largest and newest in the cruise line's fleet.