HAWAII – About 150 passengers and crew aboard a Hawaii cruise ship reported an outbreak of stomach flu, a kind of gastroenteritis.
Several people were treated on Maui after The NCL America ship Pride of Hawaii, docked in Maui's Kahalui harbor.
Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui District health officer with the state Department of Health said that if this illness is confirmed as a norovirus, it would be the fourth on a cruise ship here in the past two years.
He also stated that noroviruses like cruise ships is that they can exist much longer, up to three weeks, in air-conditioned places, compared with Hawaii’s temperatures.
The illness symptoms include sudden onset with violent vomiting and diarrhea, for about 48 hours. Although not in itself life threatening, the side effects of dehydration can be serious and sometimes fatal to young or elderly people.
Because noroviruses can also be spread by food, the Food and Drug Administration is the federal agency responsible for identifying, monitoring and managing outbreaks, not the Centers for Disease Control.
However, the CDC has information about noroviruses on its Web site. As for prevention, the advice, Pang says, is, Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands.
According to the CDC, the symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick.
Travelors Hot TipWhen traveling in areas of poor sanitation, or warmer climates where bacteria can quickly grow on exposed food, saavy travelors carry a bottle of grapefruit seed extract and squeeze a few drops in water consumed with each meal, to combat the gastro-intestinal effects of exposure to food contamination.
There is no vaccine against norovirus, and antibiotics are useless since they attack bacteria and not viruses.
While the cause of illness aboard the Pride of Hawaii has not been confirmed, health officials caution Maui residents to be aware an outbreak of norovirus may have occurred.
What: Norovirus cause gastrointestinal illness that normally lasts for 24 to 48 hours. When individuals are ill, they are contagious for three days up to two weeks after they feel ill.
Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping; some patients suffer low-grade fevers, chills, headaches, muscle aches and general tiredness.
Threats: An infection does not normally cause long-term health effects, but it causes severe dehydration and can be dangerous to the elderly, very young and indi- viduals with compromised immune systems.
How is it spread: The virus is easily spread in food and on surfaces infected by a patient, including in stool and vomit emitted by a patient.
How to avoid infection: Wash hands frequently. Disinfect with bleach-based cleaner all surfaces in areas in which an ill patient has been. Wash and use disinfec- tant on any clothing contaminated by a patient. Care- fully wash fresh fruits and vegetables.