After Brazilian sanitary officials imposed a 24-hour quarantine following a massive outbreak of what is believed to be food poisoning the Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas was liberated and allowed to continue its cruise.
Vision of the Seas was on a four day cruise along the Brazilian coast having left Monday from Santos and calling at sea resorts Búzios and Ilhabela.
At the peak of the outbreak at least 310 passengers “suffered some kind of food poisoning” with severe vomiting and diarrhea, according to a spokeswoman for the Brazilian National Agency for Sanitary Vigilance.
She said the first case was detected on Wednesday, prompting the agency to order all 1,987 passengers and 765 crew members to remain on the ship anchored at Búzios, near Rio de Janeiro. She said it was unclear how many of those stricken were passengers or crew members, “but most were passengers.”
Royal Caribbean, based in Miami, Florida, said in a statement that the ship, carrying 1,987 passengers and a crew of 700, was quarantined after some “came down with a gastrointestinal disorder.”
A breakdown of the nationalities of the passengers was not immediately available, but Royal Caribbean spokesman Alexandre Raith said “the vast majority are Brazilian.”
The agency spokeswoman said doctors had collected blood and urine samples and inspecting food supplies to determine the cause of the food poisoning. Results won’t be ready for a few weeks she added.
However as most of those stricken started to improve, “the ship was expected to be allowed to leave Búzios for Santos later in the day”, she added.
In related news the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, US, said that at least four cruise ships this week have been hit by outbreaks of stomach illness, an unusually high number.
The vessels mentioned are Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas, Celebrity Cruises’ Millennium and Holland America’s Maasdam all are reporting large numbers of passengers suffering from diarrhea and vomiting, plus the Vision of the Seas sailing along the Brazilian coast but not subject to CDC reporting.
The largest of the outbreaks is on the Maasdam, where nearly 14% of 1,211 passengers on board have fallen ill, according to the CDC. The health agency says about 7% and 5% of passengers on the Millennium and Jewel of the Seas, respectively, have been ill.
The causes of the four outbreaks have not been determined. The CDC says it has taken samples for testing from passengers on the three ships that it monitors.
The flurry of outbreaks come just a week after Celebrity Cruises’ Mercury was struck by an unusually widespread, highly publicized outbreak of norovirus that affected more than 22% of 1,833 passengers.
The Mercury spent an extra day in Charleston, South Carolina, this past weekend undergoing a thorough cleaning before heading back out to sea late Saturday. The ship is sailing on a shortened nine-night itinerary to Mexico, Belize and the Bahamas. A call in Key West has been canceled.
Sometimes called the “24-hour flu,” norovirus is the most common cause of stomach illness in the United States, accounting for around half of all cases, according to the CDC. It breaks out regularly in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, offices and other places people congregate.
Until this month, incidents such as the ones seen this week on the four ships had been becoming increasingly rare. The CDC recorded just 13 outbreaks of illnesses such as norovirus on cruise ships operating out of US ports in 2009, down from 15 in 2008, 21 in 2007 and 34 in 2006. But so far in 2010, however, there already have been seven outbreaks recorded by the CDC.