More than 200 passengers on Queen Mary 2 fall sick with vomiting and diarrhea on exclusive Christmas Cruise – as those on SECOND liner become ill with 'norovirus'As many as 190 passengers and 31 crew members have become ill with unknown illness on cruise shipSymptoms – which include vomiting and diarrhea – are consistent with norovirus, a highly contagious disease spread through contaminated food and waterTicket for similar Caribbean cruise costs upwards of $4,7000
17:03 GMT, 29 December 2012
Hundreds of passengers hoping to enjoy a pampered Christmas cruise on the imposing Queen Mary 2 are instead below deck with an unknown illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea.
Earlier this week, 189 passengers and 31 crew members had come down with symptoms, which are consistent with the norovirus, a highly-contagious virus that is easily passed from person to person through contaminated food or water.
The luxe liner departed New York on Saturday for a 12-night cruise in the Caribbean. A ticket on the prestigious liner can cost upwards of $4,700.
Christmas disaster: More than 200 crew members and passengers on the Cunard liner Queen Mary 2 have fallen ill with an unknown sickness that causes vomiting and diarrhea (file photo)
Pricey: A ticket on the luxe liner can cost upwards of $4,700 for a cruise around the Caribbean
Norovirus causes an inflammation of the stomach or intestines called acute gastroenteritis, producing stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Each year, norovirus causes some 21million illnesses, of which 70,000 require hospitalization. It kills about 800 people a year, the CDC says.
The Queen Mary 2, with 2,613 passengers and 1,255 crew members, is now docked in Saint Maarten in the Caribbean, according to ship owner Cunard Line, which is owned by Carnival Corp.
The CDC learned of the illnesses on the QM2 on Christmas Day, and of those on the Emerald Princess last Saturday. Vessels are required to notify the agency when two percent of those on board develop a gastrointestinal illness.
Although the microbial culprit remains unclear in both cases, another reason to suspect norovirus is that the pathogen 'has affected a number of schools, hospitals, nursing homes and children's day care centres this winter' in the United Kingdom, Ms Cunard said in a statement.
She did not immediately return MailOnline’s request for comment as to the current status of the Queen Mary 2’s passengers and crew.
The vessel sails regularly scheduled crossings between New York and Southampton, England, between April and late November, Cunard spokeswoman Jackie Chase told Reuters in an email. 'In addition, many of our guests come from the UK.'
Lap of luxury: The ship features, among other things, a full ballroom
Look at the stars: The ship also has the first ever planetarium on a liner
The QM2's captain is advising passengers with gastrointestinal symptoms to report to the medical center, Ms Chase said. Those sickened are asked to 'isolate themselves in their cabin until non-contagious.
They are also asked not to proceed ashore, and any shore excursion costs will be refunded. Room service is provided to affected passengers and every effort is made to make them as comfortable as possible.'
Of the 194 QM2 passengers who had fallen sick, said Chase, all but 12 had recovered as of Friday.
In a post on the message board cruisecritic.com on Wednesday, a woman who said her daughter was on the QM2 said she 'just received a message from her indicating that the Norovirus is active on board.'
'The crew are working like crazy to
service all the guests. At lunch today I noticed the hand rails on the
promenade deck were wiped three times in about one hour.'
On Thursday, someone reporting being on the ship posted that 'the restaurants are still full. The Captain last night recommended that people take all of their meals in the full-service restaurants rather than the buffet, but the buffet remains open as of this morning. We've been kept informed daily of the persistent cases.'
Another post said: 'The crew are working like crazy to service all the guests. At lunch today I noticed the hand rails on the promenade deck were wiped three times in about one hour.'
In response to the outbreak, the QM2 crew has increased cleaning and disinfection procedures, the CDC said, and is asking passengers and crew to report cases of illness and 'encourage hand hygiene.'
Medical personnel are also collecting stool specimens from ill passengers and crew, which a CDC lab will analyze to make a definitive diagnosis.
The $900million ship is considered by many to be the epitome of luxury, and has on-board, among other things, a spa, planetarium, library, theater, and fifteen restaurants and bars. Certain dining areas are reserved for passengers who hold the most expensive tickets.
Port of call: The liner departed from Brooklyn last week and is due there again at the conclusion of the 12-day cruise
When the QM2 docks in Brooklyn, an officer from the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program and an epidemiologist will board, conduct an environmental health assessment 'and evaluate the outbreak and response activities,' the CDC said.
Two officers boarded the Emerald Princess, also owned by Carnival, when it arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday and are conducting an environmental assessment.
The Vessel Sanitation Program has authority to inspect cruise ships that carry 13 or more passengers and call at U.S. ports.
It gave the Queen Mary 2 a perfect 100 on its most recent inspection this past summer, but found a few minor infractions, including a lack of serving utensils with breakfast pastries at a buffet.
CUNARD'S STATEMENT ON ILLNESS ABOARD QUEEN MARY 2
There has been an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness among the passengers on Queen Mary 2. This illness is suspected to be Norovirus, which is highly contagious and typically transmitted from person to person.
Norovirus is common throughout the UK, Europe and North America and has affected a number of schools, hospitals, nursing homes and children’s day care centres this winter.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has stated that Norovirus activity across the UK this season is 83 per cent higher than the same period last year. This has been well documented in the media recently.
Queen Mary 2 is currently on a 12-night Caribbean cruise which departed from New York on Saturday December 22. There are 2613 passengers on board, the number of passengers with active symptoms today is nine.
Enhanced sanitation protocols have been employed to help minimize transmission to other passengers. These comprehensive disinfection protocols have been developed by Cunard Line in conjunction with UK and U.S. public health authorities.
The safety and comfort of passengers and crew is always our number one priority. As is currently standard procedure across our fleet, all the ship’s passengers were provided with a precautionary health notice advising of widespread Norovirus activity and the health measures to avoid contraction and spread, both on board and whilst ashore.