Grand Princess Cruise Ship Outbreaks: Gastro and COVID Cases Declared Over, but Cruise Ships Remain Hotspots

Date:

Updated: 7:38 AM, Wed November 15, 2023

Queensland: Outbreaks of Gastro and COVID Declared Over on Grand Princess Cruise Ship

In a recent development, the doctor on board the Grand Princess cruise ship has declared that the dual outbreaks of gastro and COVID have come to an end. The ship, operated by Princess Cruises, had several passengers presenting symptoms during a previous voyage. However, after thorough disinfection, the number of people suffering from illness upon arrival in Adelaide was reported to be in the single digits. While this news is positive, it is only natural for reports of infectious outbreaks on cruise ships to raise concerns, given the high-profile COVID outbreaks that occurred in 2020.

Cruise ships have often been regarded as hotspots for infectious diseases, but what exactly causes these outbreaks? Respiratory infections on cruise ships can be caused by various pathogens, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID, as well as influenza viruses. These pathogens can spread through respiratory droplets and aerosols released when individuals cough, sneeze, talk, laugh, or breathe. It is worth noting that even during the lethal 1918 flu pandemic, troop transport ships played a role in spreading the virus between continents.

Gastro outbreaks are also quite common on cruise ships, with more than 90 percent of such incidents caused by norovirus. This highly contagious virus spreads through person-to-person contact, contaminated objects, contaminated food, or water. Other pathogens, such as bacteria found in contaminated food or water, can also cause gastrointestinal illnesses. The risk of contracting an illness on a cruise ship was evident in 2020, with approximately 19 percent of Diamond Princess passengers and crew in Japan testing positive for COVID. In fact, nearly one in four passengers and crew of the Ruby Princess docked in Sydney tested positive as well.

Nevertheless, the current risk posed by COVID has lessened significantly due to widespread vaccinations and previous infections, resulting in increased immunity among most individuals. The recent outbreak on the Grand Princess seems to have been relatively contained. A study conducted before COVID found that influenza-like illness (including fever), acute respiratory illness (without fever), and gastro were diagnosed in 32.7 percent, 15.9 percent, and 17 percent of ill passengers, and 10.9 percent, 80 percent, and 0.2 percent of ill crew members, respectively.

Analyzing data from 252 cruise ships entering American ports, researchers discovered that the overall incidence of acute gastro had reduced by 50 percent between 2006 and 2019. The number of passenger cases decreased from 32.5 per 100,000 travel days to 16.9, while crew cases decreased from 13.5 to 5.2 per 100,000 travel days. This decline can be attributed to improved hygiene and sanitation standards onboard. Larger ships and longer voyages have a higher risk of illness transmission, as prolonged close contact increases the likelihood of exposure to contagious viruses and bacteria.

So why are cruise ships particularly susceptible to becoming infection hotspots? The nature of cruising involves people gathering in confined spaces for extended periods, whether it be in dining halls or during social activities in casinos, bars, and theaters. Noisy environments contribute to the risk, as laughter, shouting, or speaking loudly result in more droplets and aerosols being released. Additionally, cruise ship passengers often come from various countries, potentially introducing different variants from different parts of the world.

While influenza typically follows a seasonal pattern on land (late autumn to early spring), onboard a cruise ship with international passengers or international port visits, it can occur at any time. Human behavior also plays a role in disease transmission. Some passengers who were surveyed following gastro outbreaks on cruise ships admitted to already being ill when they boarded or hiding their illness due to financial concerns or the belief that it was not serious. Interestingly, those who became ill were less likely to think that hand hygiene and isolation were effective in preventing infection transmission, and they were also less likely to wash their hands after using the toilet. Since norovirus transmission is often fecal-oral, this lack of hand hygiene poses a significant concern. Although most cruise ships offer à la carte dining options, many passengers still opt for buffet-style meals where food tongs are handled by multiple individuals, not all of whom may have cleaned their hands properly.

To mitigate these risks, the Department of Health and Aged Care recommends that cruise companies encourage both crew members and passengers to stay up-to-date with flu and COVID vaccinations. It is also essential for anyone who falls ill to isolate themselves or at the very least avoid crowded spaces and wear masks in public. Cruise ships need to have a robust plan in place to identify and contain outbreaks, including testing and treatment capabilities, while effectively communicating to passengers and crew how they can minimize their risk of transmission. All passengers and crew should report any signs of infectious illness and adhere to good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, such as covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing, disposing of used tissues properly, and washing or sanitizing their hands afterward. South Australia’s chief health officer has commended the Grand Princess crew for their infection protection and control practices, expressing appreciation for their efforts in getting the outbreak under control.

In conclusion, the recent declaration that the gastro and COVID outbreaks on the Grand Princess cruise ship have ended is certainly encouraging. However, it is crucial to remain vigilant when it comes to infectious diseases on cruise ships. Ongoing adherence to preventive measures, improved hygiene practices, and effective communication will be instrumental in minimizing the risk and maintaining the safety of passengers and crew.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Related to the Above News

When did the outbreaks of gastro and COVID-19 on the Grand Princess cruise ship occur?

The outbreaks occurred recently, but they have now been declared over by the ship's doctor.

What is the risk of contracting gastro or COVID-19 on cruise ships?

Cruise ships have a notorious reputation as hotspots for infection, with both respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses easily transmitted among passengers.

How are respiratory infections like COVID-19 and influenza transmitted on cruise ships?

These infections can be transmitted through respiratory droplets and aerosols when people breathe, talk, laugh, cough, and sneeze.

What causes gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships?

Gastrointestinal outbreaks are often caused by norovirus, a highly contagious virus that can be transmitted through person-to-person contact, contaminated objects, food, or water. Other pathogens can also cause gastrointestinal illnesses.

How has the risk associated with COVID-19 on cruise ships diminished?

The risk has diminished to some extent due to widespread vaccination and acquired immunity from prior infections. The recent outbreak on the Grand Princess was significantly smaller in scale.

Has the incidence of gastro on cruise ships decreased over time?

Yes, there has been a decrease in the incidence of gastro on cruise ships between 2006 and 2019, likely due to improvements in hygiene and sanitation practices onboard.

Why do cruise ships become infection hotspots?

Passengers gather in confined spaces for extended durations, and the risk is heightened in noisy environments. International passengers can bring viral variants from around the world, and human behavior, such as failing to disclose illness or neglecting proper hand hygiene, contributes to the risk.

What measures can be taken to mitigate the risk of infectious outbreaks on cruise ships?

Recommendations include encouraging flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, isolation or staying in cabins if ill, wearing masks in public, implementing testing and treatment capabilities, and promoting good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

What are some specific recommendations for cruise companies?

Cruise companies should have plans in place to identify and contain outbreaks, communicate these measures to passengers and crew, and ensure infection protection and control practices are implemented and followed by crew members.

What was the response to the recent outbreak on the Grand Princess in Adelaide, Australia?

The response was praised by South Australia's chief health officer, who commended the infection protection and control practices of the Grand Princess crew for successfully managing the outbreak.

Please note that the FAQs provided on this page are based on the news article published. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is always recommended to consult relevant authorities or professionals before making any decisions or taking action based on the FAQs or the news article.

Rohan Desai
Rohan Desai
Rohan Desai is a health-conscious author at The Reportify who keeps you informed about important topics related to health and wellness. With a focus on promoting well-being, Rohan shares valuable insights, tips, and news in the Health category. He can be reached at rohan@thereportify.com for any inquiries or further information.

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