Norovirus on a Cruise is VERY Rare
Cruises and norovirus go hand and hand, right? The last time you told someone you were planning a cruise, did they respond with a snarky comment about stomach bugs, maybe coupled with some toilet humor?
Mainstream news sources are largely to blame, with nuggets like the following from Fox News and Forbes.
The confined space of a cruise ships can be a ripe breeding ground for infections like norovirus
– Fox News (4/14/14)
Public trust in the cruise industry has been eroded by the recent virus outbreaks
– Forbes (1/31/14)
Often, their hunger for eyeballs trumps the integrity of the piece and we’re left thinking that every sailing looks like the movie Contagiion.
But, the truth is that your likelihood of getting the Norovirus in a restaurant or a buddy’s house are far greater than contracting the illness on a cruise ship. The most astonishing fact that puts cruising and the norovirus into perspective:
- Likelihood of getting the norovirus by living int he U.S. – 1 in 15
- Likelihood of getting the norovirus by going on a cruise – 1 in 8,995
The numbers are a slight exaggeration given you’re likely only cruising for one week out of the year, but it still helps gain context. Before we analyze the statistics, let’s get some background info.
No doubt, Norovirus is a HUGE problem. It’s actually the #1 cause of foodbourne illnesses in the U.S. Here are some quick facts showing the impact on the US, annually.
- 20 Million total cases each year
- 400k emergency room visits
- $777 Million in healthcare costs
- up to 800 deaths
Norovirus is transmitted as a result of unsanitary conditions. Without getting too graphic, it’s largely the result of people not properly washing their hands after using the restroom. The virus can last on surfaces for upwards of two weeks. Once ill, the symptoms of Norovirus include diarrhea and vomiting… not cool when poolside on your cruise ship’s lido deck.
But if you’ve been on a cruise ship recently, you’ll notice that you can’t walk 20 feet without seeing a hand sanitizing station. On our last sailing, we weren’t even able to access the breakfast buffet area until the attendant watched us Purell ourselves. We was so sanitized, that our wheat bagel actually tasted like lemon zest. When is the last time you saw one of these at a restaurant or high school?
The Caribbean salt air is no better breeding ground than a hospital wing. In fact, the likelihood of an outbreak in a hospital is 3x that on a cruise ship. But, reporters are able to create a vivid picture of a vessel floating out in the middle of nowhere with people vomiting off all sides of the ship. It makes for a good story… but, that’s all that it is, a fabricated story. Hopefully these fun facts help cure some of the common myths.
Cruise Norovirus Infographic
So the next time a friend makes a potty joke about your upcoming cruise, make sure to ruin their next trip to TGI Fridays by sending them this info.
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