Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreak May Be Over

An Alaska cruise ship appears to have limited the spread of an ongoing gastrointestinal illness.

The San Francisco-based Sea Princess reported higher than usual norovirus levels on four of its seven sailings this season. But its most recent 10-day cruise, which ended July 9th, reported no outbreak.

Fifty-three passengers – about 2 and a half percent of those on board — became ill during the previous sailing.

Jay Dempsey is a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors norovirus on ships.

“While the cruise line alerted CDC to this activity, that isn’t up to the 3 percent level that would require any type of outbreak level or response from CDC,” he says.

Cruises ending May 30th and June 9th also had high illness numbers, hitting about 6 percent of passengers.

CDC staff responded by requiring intensive cleanings, which delayed the ship’s departure several hours. They focused on cabins with repeated outbreaks, and some other areas of the ship.

“When vessel sanitation personnel were on the Sea Princess the last time, any recommendations that they made, those actions were addressed while (CDC) personnel were on the ship conducting the inspection,” he says.

Princess spokeswoman Karen Candy says the current sailing, which began July 9th, has not had elevated numbers of infection. She says the most recent outbreak was most likely caused by sick passengers carrying it onboard.

The Sea Princess makes 10-day sailings to Southeast Alaska ports, including Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.

The CDC says two other Alaska other ships had outbreaks this season: the National Geographic Sea Lion and the Celebrity Millennium. The Coral Princess also had an increased illness count on the cruise just before its Alaska season. No major problems were reported on following sailings.

Norovirus, also called Norwalk-like virus, causes diarrhea and vomiting.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.