It's a new year and that means it's time to do the math of some 2018 numbers. This time around? Gastrointestinal issues on cruise ships, and the news is good.
Unlike almost any other places or businesses, cruise lines must report to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) any time more 3% of persons onboard a cruise ship have symptoms of of gastrointestinal illness. This has lead to many thinking that cruise ships are in some way Petri dishes at sea. The reality is that the most common cause of GI issues on the high seas is Norovirus, a stomach bug causing symptoms for one to three days - and this same bug is the most common cause of gastrointestinal illness on land as well. Got sick for a day after eating out on land? That was probably Noro. We've crunched the numbers before and shared the reality of the situation, and that is that as of last year's data, you were 35x as likely to get Norovirus on land than on a cruise ship. Crazy, right? Well this year reported that your even safer at sea than last year.
According to the latest CDC reports, 2018 saw the second lowest number of gastrointestinal illness outbreaks since 2001. Last year saw only ten reportable incidents, where five of said outbreaks were attributed to Norovrius, one to E. coli, and the other four being unknown. Only 2013 and 2014 saw fewer reported outbreaks, with a total of nine each. To be clear, this data is for ships that visit US ports and carry at least 100 passengers - it doesn't matter where the ship is at the time, the ship's country of registry, etc.
Cruise lines work incredible hard and participate in the US CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program, which involves surprise inspections, and a wealth of regulations and guidelines to ensure passengers stay safe and healthy on their cruise. Cruise lines of course want healthy passengers, and over the years we've seen numerous hand washing education programs on ships as well as wider availability of hand sanitizer, and installation of hand-washing stations outside various dining venues on ships.
To learn more about the great jobs that cruise lines and the CDC do, the Vessel Sanitation Program, and how to keep your traveling party safe and healthy, checkout our article: One Step You Can Take to Avoid Norovirus: Take a Cruise