Wednesday, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas arrived back in a New Jersey port after passengers suffered one of the largest gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on a cruise ship in 20 years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) officially issued a cruise ship illness outbreak alert for the ship, on which 630 of 3,071 passengers (20.5 percent), and 54 of 1,166 crew (4.6 percent), reported falling ill with symptoms of vomiting and/or diarrhea. The CDC still has not officially announced the cause of the illness, but our Florida maritime accident attorneys are waiting with anticipation for a discovery.
According to the CDC, one of its Vessel Sanitation Program epidemiologists and environmental health officers, along with another independent epidemiologist, boarded the ship while it was in port at St. Thomas, and travelled with the ship back to port in New Jersey. The CDC team conducted an investigation and environmental health assessment in an attempt to determine the cause and origin of the outbreak. The CDC team is supposed to continue the investigation through the boarding of new passengers for the ship’s next voyage slated to begin tomorrow.
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 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 affected by gastrointestinal illness are unable to leave their cabin, due to their symptoms or not wanting 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.
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 Florida cruise ship attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A.