CDC Declares Gastrointestinal Outbreak Aboard Norwegian Cruise Line Ship

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) issued a cruise ship illness outbreak alert for the Norwegian Gem, an over 3,600-passenger capacity ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet.  According to the alert, during a November 13-25, 2013, voyage, 111 passengers and 3 crew members (4.55% of the total number of people onboard) reported being ill with symptoms of vomiting and/or diarrhea. The cause of the outbreak is unknown, but our Florida maritime accident attorneys are waiting with anticipation for a discovery.

The report states that Norwegian Cruise Line responded to the outbreak by increasing the ship’s cleaning and disinfecting procedures and collecting specimens from ill passengers and crew for testing at the CDC’s National Calicivirus Laboratory. According to the CDC, Vessel Sanitation Program officers are monitoring the outbreak, which will continue into the ship’s subsequent voyage.

The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program (“VSP”) is designed to assist the cruise ship industry in preventing and controlling introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal illnesses, i.e. food poisoning, on cruise ships.  Despite the CDC’s best efforts, however, health violations are common occurrences on many cruise ships.  Improper storage, handling, and preparation of food onboard cruise ships is dangerous and can easily result in the spread of gastrointestinal illness.  Gastrointestinal illnesses can cause vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, dehydration, and, in very serious cases, death.

Part of the problem with curbing the occurrence and spread of gastrointestinal illnesses aboard ships is the reporting requirements imposed on cruise lines.  Only cruise lines that visit U.S. ports are obligated to report outbreaks to the CDC.  Further, a cruise is not required to report an outbreak if less than 3 percent of the ship’s total passengers and crew report symptoms of diarrheal disease to medical personnel.

Further compounding the problem is the fact that many passengers afflicted with gastrointestinal illness are unable to leave their cabin due to their symptoms, or simply don’t want to risk being quarantined by the ship’s crew.  Because these passengers don’t report their symptoms, the seriousness of an outbreak can be diminished.

The outbreak aboard the Norwegian Gem is nothing compared to unfortunate epidemic that erupted aboard Celebrity Cruise’s Summit in October of last year.  Of the 2112 passengers aboard the Summit, a whopping 14.5 percent (307), as well as 14 of 952 crew members, reported sick with a “gastrointestinal illness.”

Cruise lines have a duty to provide their passengers with a safe and sanitary environment.  Failing to establish and enforce proper cleaning and hygiene procedures may expose a cruise line to liability for negligence.  As this blog has mentioned before, because cruise ship claims are subject to different laws and much shorter statutes of limitations, sometimes as short as one year, they are best handled by experienced cruise ship accident attorneys.

The Florida cruise ship accident lawyers of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and have been representing the victims of cruise ship negligence for over four decades.  If you or someone you know has been injured in a cruise ship accident or has been the victim of a crime while on a cruise ship, contact the attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today.


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