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About Norwalk Virus
23 million people
If you ask me,
there's no cleaner,
a passenger cruise ship.
23 million people
become ill from
no real treatment
for Norwalk Virus,
for the symptoms
results in illness
24 to 48 hours
The best prevention
is to practice
good hand washing
Cruise Ship Illness
About Norwalk Virus
virus that is currently plaguing the cruise lines is called Norwalk
Virus. It bears the name of the place where is was first identified
as the cause of a primary school outbreak of vomiting and diarrhea in
Before the discovery of diarrhea-causing viruses (in the early 1970's), researchers were unable to identify an exact, causative, agent for gastroenteritis (a gastrointestinal illness) when it was not due to a bacterial source (like salmonella, shigella, staphylococcus, E. coli, etc). Prior to that time, physicians and researchers called any generalized gastrointestinal illness nonbacterial gastroenteritis, the stomach flu, winter vomiting disease, or it was just passed off as food poisoning, without a test to confirm whether bacteria was the culprit bug or not. With the identification of viruses and the development of sensitive and specific diagnostic tests, eventually researchers began to recognize viruses as causative agents of gastroenteritis.
Contracting Norwalk Virus
This virus is passed from one person to another very quickly, which is why it often occurs in outbreaks. Have you ever had one child in your home get sick and the next thing you know you are spending what seems to be 3 nights in a row in the bathroom with sick kids? Most likely your house was infected with Norwalk Virus or Norovirus (formerly called "Norwalk-like Virus"). These are the group of viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea. Next to the common cold, this is the most prevalent illness in the United States and Canada.
Norwalk Virus is passed through personal to person contact, consuming food or water contaminated with the virus, or by contact with contaminated surfaces (door handles, elevator buttons, hand rails, and food utensils are the big offenders). Cooked foods may also be contaminated though handling by an infected crew member. The foods most often causing Norwalk Virus outbreaks are shellfish and salad ingredients. The sources of water contamination associated with outbreaks are swimming pools, drinking water (not bottled water) and ice cubes.
One larger outbreak or Norwalk Virus occurred in Pennsylvania and Delaware in September, 1987. The source of both outbreaks was traced to ice that was made from water from a contaminated well. In Pennsylvania, the ice was consumed by spectators at a football game, and in Delaware, it was the guests at a cocktail party who downed the virus with the drinks.
The Norwalk Virus is common in situations where there are a lot of people in a group setting such as shopping malls, schools, nursing homes, banquet halls, dormitories, campgrounds, summer camps, churches, schools and cruise ships.
The Cruise Ship Problem
Of course you won 't be seeing Johnny's camp aired on the news when half of the kids are sent home sick with a virus. Those headlines are reserved for large cruise lines. And that's the reason why the news headlines about the cruise ship illness are misleading.
In our everyday lives, if we became ill with Norwalk Virus, it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify the location where we contracted it. Unless you've been isolated and had limited contact with others, to such an extent that identification of our exposure is an isolated instance, your guess about where you contacted Norwalk Virus would be just that - a guess. But, when you are isolated for seven to ten days on a cruise ship and you become ill midway through your voyage, it's a bit of a "no-brainer" to assume you contracted the illness onboard ship.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that each year 23 million people in the United States alone become ill from Norwalk virus - and that means that outbreaks are common place occurrence. From 1966 to 2000 the CDC recorded 348 outbreaks; most occurred in restaurants (39%) nursing homes and hospitals (29%), and daycare centers an schools (12%). Of the remaining incidents, cruise ships and vacation settings only accounted for 10% of the recorded outbreaks.
mean that the cruise industry is sitting on it's laurels - quite to
the contrary. The lines are doing everything possible to control illness
onboard their ships. Surveillance teams have been assigned to ships,
reporting standards above and beyond the CDC requirements (3% or more
of the passengers and crew with vomiting and/or diarrhea) have been
internally instituted and new behaviors for crew members and food preparation
and storage are happening oceans wide - on every passenger vessel.
Treatment for Norwalk Virus
A Norwalk Virus infection results in illness 24 to 48 hours after exposure, and symptoms last from 12-48 hours. Illness is characterized by the abrupt onset of vomiting and/or non-bloody diarrhea; abdominal cramps are common. 25-50% of patients report headache, nausea, malaise, myalgias and low-grade fever.
measures to avoid dehydration include drinking over the counter electrolyte
solutions (Gatorade®) to replace fluids and electrolytes (minerals
) lost by diarrhea and/or vomiting.
Do not give antidiarrheal medications to children (unless directed by a physician).The risk of dehydration is greatest in infants and young children, and parents should closely monitor the number of wet diapers changed per day, or the urine output when their child is sick.
replacement Pedialyte® or Lytren® have liquid and minerals and
are recommend them for babies.
give your child very hot or very cold liquids.
If you're a passenger who's prescribed diuretics (water pills) and you contract Norwalk Virus, you should go to the ship's infirmary. The reason to be extremely caution is because dehydration develops very quickly in the presence of diuretics and vomiting and can be quite profound in a short period of time. But, don't be guilty of practicing medicine without a license - don't stop taking a prescribed medication or a diuretic until you consult consult with a physician!
Preventing Norwalk Virus
way to prevent Norwalk Virus is to practice good hand washing techniques.
This means to wash your hands frequently, and thoroughly with soap and
hot running water for at least ten seconds:
Don't worry; it isn't deadly. It just causes some uncomfortable symptoms that will pass in 24 to 48 hours. No one likes to be sick, especially on vacation. You can be assured that every cruise line is doing everything they can to disinfect their ships and be sure that their food handlers are sanitary. The problem with the Norwalk Virus and cruise ships is that the cruise lines can't prevent you from bringing the virus onboard and they can't prevent the news media from getting out of hand - when all we're talking about is a the most common stomach virus on the planet. Play it safe this year, take a cruise and call Accessible Jouneys - Choose to Cruise.
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