Explorer of the Seas turned back: Passengers sick with contagious virusPOSTED: 01/28/14 12:09 PM
St. Maarten – The Collective Prevention Services (CPS) of the Ministry of Public Health recommended to the chief medical officer on-board the Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas bypass St. Maarten altogether – the vessel was scheduled to visit yesterday – and return to its homeport in the interests of mitigating any risk to the health of both residents and visitors on the island. The ship’s passengers and crew had fallen ill with the extremely contagious norovirus. The harbour master confirmed that the ship did in fact turn back and is headed to its home port in New Jersey, USA.
The norovirus can be contracted from people, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. It causes the stomach and intestines to become inflamed resulting in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the United States of America infecting as many as 21 million people annually.
The advisory notice communications handled by Maria Henry from the CPS to the Explorer of the Seas’ medical officer stated that the overall number of cases far exceed the recommended norm. Based on this information being reviewed in consultation with the United States Center of Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Izzy Gertsenbluth, Epidemiologist and Dr. Virginia Asin, Head of the CPS, and considering that there is no guarantee the outbreak is and will be contained based on the vessel’s last presented overview and reported numbers, the CPS maintained its initial advisory that the vessel should return to its home port for proper disinfection.
On Saturday, U.S. Virgin Islands government officials were informed by the CDC that 281 passengers and 22 crew members aboard the Explorer to the Seas, had reported symptoms that resemble norovirus complications.
The Explorer of the Seas is carrying 3,050 passengers and 1,165 crew and was scheduled to make its port of call in St. Thomas on Sunday and the Port of St. Maarten yesterday.
On Sunday the CDC was to board the vessel in St. Thomas with a Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officers and an epidemiologist to conduct an epidemiologic investigation, environmental health assessment, and evaluate the outbreak and response activities. Specimens were also to be collected and sent to the CDC lab for testing.