Virus?: More than 300 Passengers and Crew Become Sick on Ruby Princess Caribbean Cruise

About 10% of the passengers and 3% of the crew onboard were sick the Ruby Princess cruise ship.
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More than 300 passengers and crew on the Ruby Princess have contracted a gastrointestinal illness causing vomiting and diarrhoea.

The Princess Cruises voyage carrying about 4000 people ran from February 26 to Sunday (Monday NZT) in the western Caribbean, according to tracking site CruiseMapper, and docked in Galveston, Texas.

While the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not listed a specific virus, Princess Cruises said in a statement the cause was likely norovirus.

About 10% of the passengers and 3% of the crew onboard were sick, according to the CDC.

“At the first sign of an increase in the numbers of passengers reporting to the medical centre with gastrointestinal illness, we immediately initiated additional enhanced sanitisation procedures to interrupt the person-to-person spread of this virus,” Princess Cruises said in a statement.

The company said the ship underwent an additional disinfection ahead of its next voyage.

The Ruby Princess outbreak is the fourth outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness on a cruise this year. The first was norovirus a months-long voyage from P&O Cruises (owned by Carnival) that is sailing until April. The CDC said 86 passengers and 20 crew fell ill aboard the Arcadia. Two Royal Caribbean cruises also had outbreaks this year.

Outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness had been lower than in pre-pandemic years, thanks to the enhanced cleaning and safety protocols cruises were taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In 2022, there were four reported outbreaks. There was one in 2021, though cruises did not begin a full return to sailing until June.

In 2019, the last full year of cruising before the pandemic, the CDC reported 10 cases of gastro illnesses; eight were norovirus. Cruise lines reported a total of 32 outbreaks between 2017 and 2019, though cases dropped overall since 2006.

“Norovirus can be especially challenging to control on cruise ships because of the close living quarters, shared dining areas, and rapid turnover of passengers,” the CDC says on its website. “When the ship docks, norovirus can be brought on board in contaminated food or water or by passengers who were infected while ashore.”

The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program has worked with the industry to monitor gastrointestinal illness since 1975, after “an excessive number” of outbreaks.

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