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Cruise Illness Outbreak? What do You Need to Know?

Everything you need to know about illness outbreaks on cruise ships, and advice following any accident or illness whilst on board.

Cruise Illness Outbreaks – What are the Risks?

It is often the case that, in the event of food poisoning at a resort or on board a cruise ship, illness can spread quickly unless isolated. With holidaymakers living in close quarters, unless quarantined, the effects of food poisoning can affect entire holiday parties on board.

Once an infected person gets on board a ship, the virus can be spread quickly, mainly through hand contact with railings, doors, and especially buffet food. The industrial-size servings of food on a cruise ship with hundreds of passengers can be particularly worrisome, since once the virus enters the food it can spread rapidly. Food can also get more easily contaminated with the virus if it sits out for several hours, as can be the case with buffet-style meals.

In late 2015, new research by scientists at North Carolina State University revealed the reason norovirus spreads so quickly. Read more on the study’s findings here.

But don’t worry if you’ve got a cruise coming up – the odds of an illness-free trip are still heavily stacked in your favour.

Cruise lines are required to report food poisoning outbreaks that affect more than 3% of on board passengers to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of the 20 million people to travel on one of Cruise Line International Association’s cruise ships in 2013, 1,409 passengers were affected by food poisoning; meaning 0.007% of all cruisers or one in 14,000.

For more information, see senior travel lawyer, Joanne Berry’s blog on the odds of food poisoning on board a cruise ship.

What to do if You Contract Illness On-Board a Cruise

Most people who have gastroenteritis caused by norovirus infection have mild symptoms that will get better within a few days. However, you should seek medical advice in the following cases (or if there are any other symptoms that you are concerned about):

  • If you suspect that you are becoming dehydrated
  • If you are vomiting a lot and unable to keep fluids down
  • If you have blood in your diarrhoea or vomit
  • If you have severe abdominal pain
  • If you have severe symptoms or if you feel that your condition is getting worse
  • If you have a continuing high fever
  • If your symptoms are not settling, for example, vomiting for more than one to two days, or diarrhea that does not start to settle after three to four days
  • Infections caught abroad
  • If you are elderly or have an underlying health problem such as diabetes, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease or kidney disease
  • If you have a weakened immune system because of, for example, chemotherapy treatment, long-term steroid treatment or HIV infection
  • If you are pregnant

Legal Advice Following a Cruise Illness

There are very strict rules, governed by international law, on time limits for making holiday illness compensation claims if you have been injured aboard an aircraft or while at sea. The limitation for bringing a claim if you are sick or had an accident on board a cruise ship is two years. This is a strict time limit and cannot be extended.

Operators of cruise liners are duty bound to ensure that accommodation is safe and hygienic, and that guests are not unreasonably exposed to the risk of injury, disease, or infection. If they fail in that duty, our specialists can help to retrieve damages for injured parties whose holidays have been ruined.

If you or your holiday party have suffered food poisoning on holiday our No Win, No Fee Solicitors can help you with your claim for compensation. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.


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