From Staff and Wire Reports
February 6 2005

If you’re taking a cruise, make sure to wash your hands. That’s the advice from the International Council of Cruise Lines in response to concerns about outbreaks of norovirus aboard ships.

Cruise ships – like day-care centers, hospitals and other environments where germs are easily spread – are susceptible to outbreaks of the highly contagious norovirus and other gastrointestinal illnesses.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported 36 outbreaks aboard ships in 2004, compared to 29 in 2003. At least seven shipboard outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness have already been reported for 2005.

Cruise ships are required by the CDC to have sanitary protocols in place to prevent and limit the spread of norovirus, but the International Council of Cruise Lines advises knowing that you can protect yourself and others through simple personal hygiene.

“The most preventative measure people can take is washing their hands frequently,” said Michael Crye, president of the ICCL. Experts say you should wash for a full 15 seconds to get rid of germs.

Symptoms of norovirus include diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps and may last from one to two days. But the illness is by no means a cruise ship disease; the CDC estimates that about 23 million Americans come down with it each year. Most people call it “stomach flu” and stay home from work a day or two without stopping to think about whether they picked it up at the office or a restaurant.

For more information on how to stay healthy on a cruise, visit the CDC website at or the Vessel Sanitation Program’s website at