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How Gastrointestinal Germs Spread on Ships

Many cruise ship voyages have one passenger or crew member in one-hundred sick with a viral form of gastroenteritis, most often called a stomach flu. Gastrointestinal disease outbreaks onboard cruise ships that affect over 3% of passengers or crew are reported to the public by the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP).

Passengers and crew may become infected by touching common objects, such as elevator buttons, handrails, cafeteria utensils, slot machines, tables, chairs, and practically everything on a cruise ship. 'Indirect Contact Spread' occurs when an infected person touches an inanimate object and sometime later, as much as several days, another person touches the same object thus passing the germs. Indirect-contact spread is most effective on a cruise ship.

Direct Contact Spread of an infectious disease occurs when it is passed from person to person by proximal contact with an infected person though sneezing, coughing, projectile vomiting. For this to occur, there must be some degree of actual physical contact between the original germ host and the new person. In a crowd situation, germs are spread by an aerosol and anyone that rides the train or subways is acutely aware of the power of saliva and nasal mucus.

The infected feces to oral pathway is a most effective method of viral transmission, and, even though the CDC often tells the public the Norovirus disease is brought onboard by an infected passenger, internal CDC data indicates that Norovirus and other contagious pathogens are often spread by the crew across multiple voyages.

Cruise ship data excluded from these studies:

  • Voyages with less than 20 passengers.
  • Voyage that terminate (disembark) in non-U.S. ports
  • Same day voyages (those without an overnight stay).

Complete Data Period: 2001-0101 to 2006-0504
Outbreak Data Period: 2001-0101 to 2007-0218

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This page last reviewed: 2007-1209 17:14

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