Aboard the luxury tour operated by the Royal Caribbean, passengers were taken ill this past week by what was described as a norovirus. This virus is extremely contagious and it can be transmitted through food, water, contact via surfaces or other humans. Of the 2,500 passengers aboard the Royal Caribbean ship Majesty of the Seas, 65 passengers and two crew members fell ill. The symptoms included vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms manifest themselves in an unwilling body in the form of headaches, aching joints, and elevated body temperatures. These unpleasant experiences may begin to appear two days after infection and can lead to severe dehydration, if not treated properly. The recent cruise passengers who took ill were reportedly treated with over-the-counter medicine.
During a winter cruise in between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 aboard the Queen Mary 2, many passengers were also stricken with the dreaded virus. The 204 passengers and the 16 crew members made a full recovery but the thought of being stranded on a ship, however large, while an easily transmitted “stowaway” virus sneaks around the cabins, can be ruinous to vacation moods. The virus has been complemented by a nick name referring to a Formula One car, due to its speed and quality of format.
The Majesty of the Seas was executing a four day trip around the Caribbean stopping at Nassau, Coco Bay, the Bahamas and Key West, Florida when the Royal Caribbean passengers took ill. Upon returning to Miami, the ship was thoroughly cleaned before the next cruise passengers were allowed on board. The sanitary measures were undertaken as part strict regulations by the Royal Caribbean Company to ensure the health and welfare of their passengers. After the cleaning, passengers were asked by letter before they boarded if they had been feeling poorly with flu like symptoms. They were also given the chance to reschedule their cruise if they felt uneasy with the recent outbreak or were worried about falling ill.
The norovirus has a nasty history, as well as a promising future, and many people turn green at the thought of falling prey to the illness. The virus is particularly infamous for its tenacity at nursing homes, schools and planes. The trail of victims has been, at times, well documented. One such incident was on a plane in which one passenger infected with a norovirus vomited. This, in turn, caused 29 airline crew members who worked in the plane of over the next six days to become ill.
The norovirus has a fearsome reputation for withstanding cleaning expeditions and dramatic differences in temperatures. Scientists are working on understanding it better but so far haven’t managed to incubate it in human cells in the laboratory. It is proving tricky to crack. It manages to invade human DNA, reproducing new noroviruses extremely well. It does this with only its simple nine protein-coding genes, as opposed to 20,000 protein-coding genes that humans have but that did not manage to protect Royal Caribbean passengers from taking ill.
By: Persephone Abbott
Photo credit: Majesty of the Seas, Matt Wade Photography