Monday, February 6, 2012

Hundreds Sickened by Norovirus - Not on a Cruise, but in School

Over the weekend, there have been dozens of articles running in newspapers across the country (and internationally), and even network, cable, and local TV coverage about two Princess cruise ships that have had outbreaks of Norovirus last week and were returning to port over the weekend. Princess did some additional disinfection when the ships turned around this weekend in Ft. Lauderdale, and that got coverage too.

At the same time today marks the reopening of St. Ignatius Prep School in San Francisco. It’s been closed since last Wednesday when 355 students and faculty reported having Norovirus. Still, it seems to have received only limited local coverage.

Here’s how the numbers stacked up: On Ruby Princess, 92 passengers out of 3,133 contracted the disease, as well as 13 crew members out of 1,186.

On Crown Princess, 394 of 3,103 passengers and 30 of 1,168 crew on Crown Princess were affected.

It also has to be remembered, that these are total numbers for the entire 7-day cruises. The time that anyone is experiencing symptoms is normally a two- or three-day period. Princess didn’t have day-by-day statistics available, but over the course of the cruise, only a fraction of those total numbers would have been experiencing symptoms on any given day. Of course that makes the numbers look much less dramatic.

St. Ignatius’ percentages are quite a bit higher. According to local news reports, when the school was closed on Wednesday, they had 325 students of 1,444 reported ill, and 30 faculty members of 103 calling in ill. It appears that all 355 were experiencing symptoms on Wednesday.

Over the weekend, Princess had a professional service come aboard their ships to assist the crew with disinfecting the ships with disinfectants developed especially for Norovirus. The school had custodians come in and disinfect areas with bleach.

According to the CDC, Norovirus is the second only to the common cold in worldwide illnesses.

For some reason every time it occurs on a cruise ship, it makes national headlines with commentators blaming the cruise lines for not keeping their customers safe and healthy. Yet, when a much larger outbreak occurs on land, it barely gets any local coverage, and it gets shrugged off by the media as “stomach flu.” Go figure.