The Dreaded Norovirus – a few important steps to protect yourself from catching a virus on your cruise.
If you’re an avid newspaper reader, you probably think cruiser ships are nothing more than moveable breeding grounds for noroviruses. And there’s a good reason behind it. Last year, the situation clearly got out of hand with “stomach bug” cruise disasters making news more often than ever. Need I go on? I guess those pieces of news gave us all shudders and made us wonder if we should to go cruising at all.
Does it all mean we should just resign from the beauty of cruising and find an alternative strategy for amazing holidays? My personal experience in cruising – and mind you, I’m a pro when it comes to surviving on board with large masses of people – tells me that all this can be prevented with a few simple tricks.
Norovirus is second to the common cold in reported illnesses and it affects millions of people around the world each year, not just those who like to spend their holidays on large luxurious ships. Here are the best strategies to secure yourself against contracting the nasty norovirus.
Now, if you think norovirus is permanently attached to ships and attacks only when on wide waters, you’re wrong. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that the majority of norovirus outbreaks happen on land.
Cruise ship staff is well-prepared for norovirus outbreaks – preventing the so-called “Gastrointestinal Illness” (that’s right, it deserves capital letters) is in fact one of the top priorities of the whole industry. Cruise lines have enhanced their sanitation practices, initiated special Response Plans and Outbreak Prevention procedures. They now perform a close passenger health screening (especially during the flu season) and educate both passengers and crew about proper behavior on board. Still, noroviruses can still sneakily find their ways to enter our digestive systems, so it’s in our best interest to make sure we don’t help them spread and cause an outbreak.
Here’s what to do in order to minimize the chance of a norovirus becoming the theme of our cruise holiday.
Wash your hands
Sounds too simple to be true, right? In fact, washing your hands before eating, drinking or even smoking is a good habit that will keep other viruses away too. If you recently touched your face or went to a bathroom, not washing your hands can have serious consequences – the virus gets attached to skin and hand touch surfaces like elevator buttons, railings or door handles. Use hot water and soap, wash your hands for 20 seconds whenever your hands are dirty and you’ll be safer than you think. It was recently reported that while hand sanitizers do kill germs, soap and water are more effective for killing viruses.
Take it easy on raw foods
Fresh fruit, leafy green vegetables and raw shellfish, such as oysters, might be tricky – but then again any food that was handled after being served (even cooked) can become the cause of infection. If you have some doubts whether the food was handled properly or you see someone slightly sick, it’s best to avoid the area and choose alternative options. Generally speaking, it’s better to dine in a traditional restaurant venue and avoid the buffet lines where everyone is handling the same serving utensils. The same goes for water – always choose bottled water whether on the ship or on land.
Take good care of yourself
Just because there’s a norovirus circulating among your fellow passengers doesn’t mean you’re going to come down with it as well. Keep yourself hydrated – drink lots of water and other fluids, and get plenty of rest. A good night’s sleep is of paramount importance – when we’re tired, our immune system isn’t working at its top gears.
Pack Some First-Aid
It’s always a good idea (I consider it essential) to pack a first-aid kit so you have relief available at the first sign of illness. In additional to the standard band-aids, antibiotic cream, pain and fever reliever, travel with some stomach upset and diarrhea relief medicine as well. My choice is Pepto chewable tablets and more powerful Immodium, but there are lots of brands available. It’s also a great idea to put a travel size spray bottle of Lysol in your bag to disinfect places in your cabin that previous guests are likely to have touched often (phone, tv remote, fold-down tray on the airline!).
Discuss Your Trip With Your Doctor
Touch base with your doctor(s) and let them know you will be traveling and what areas of the world you will be visiting. There may be particular medications that will be recommended for you, and they may have an opinion about which over-the-counter remedies will be most effective for you.
Visit The Ships Clinic At First Signs of a Stomach Bug
If you do become ill while cruising, visit the ships medical clinic right away and limit yourself to more private areas, so you won’t spread it to everyone surrounding you.
In you find the subject fascinating (and you should if you’re planning to enjoy a cruise soon), learn more by visiting this website brought by CDC covering everything about norovirus risks on cruises. Don’t forget that it’s not cruise ships that provoke virus outbreaks – large numbers of people in a relatively small space do.
About The Author: Sophie Anderson is a globetrotter with an unquenched thirst for travelling and adventure. During her travels she set foot on all continents and visited more than 20 countries. Currently, she connects her passion for travelling with her professional life by working for Cruise Agency.