CHARLOTTE, SC — Only three months into 2010, there have already been eight cruise ship norovirus outbreaks — a startling number compared to the total 15 outbreaks last year, and one that cruise companies fear may set a trend for the months to come, according to USA Today.
According to the story, experts can’t confirm whether the outbreaks — four of which happened in one week — are coincidence or are indicative of something worse, such as the possibility that the virus may have changed to become more easily-spread or resistant to cleaning.
Dr. Claire Panosian, a clinical professor of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine
at the University of California at Los Angeles
, said: "It could be a blip or it could be a trend. It''s too early to say."
The outbreaks are occurring despite cruise ships taking extra precautions to clean and disinfect, some even delaying the boarding to allow for additional cleaning time between groups of passengers, the story stated.
Royal Caribbean spokesperson Cynthia Martinez said: "In these situations, there will be heightened cleaning procedures being carried out throughout the ship during the entire sailing."
Norovirus is particularly difficult to eradicate because it can linger on surfaces like doorknobs, countertops and buffet tables and can sometimes even survive being cleaned with a bleach solution, the story noted.
The virus also has an incubation period, the story added.