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How to Avoid the “Cruise Ship Virus”

After years of flying under the radar, the norovirus — also known as the “cruise ship virus” — is making headlines again.

Recently, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas had 600-plus passengers and crew come down with an illness that included diarrhea and vomiting. Meanwhile, the sickness spread through the ship like wildfire.

To be fair, it’s not yet known if the recent ships where passengers have fallen ill are victim of the norovirus. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) still lists the cause as “unknown.”

But all of those symptoms suggest of the cruise ship virus.

We’ve had similar bugs in the past (not on a cruise ship) and can tell you from experience that it’s not fun. The virus can come on fast — in our case we felt fine and just a few hours later we couldn’t stop vomiting. The symptoms last a few days, during which you feel exhausted.

Places like cruise ships are perfectly built for spreading the virus. It can live on surfaces, and be easily picked up. With so many people in close proximity, it spreads quickly.

So how can you avoid the virus on a cruise?

According to the CDC, the most important step anyone can take is to wash your hands frequently. The virus infects by getting on a person’s hands who then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

In case you can’t wash your hands, then the CDC suggests an alcohol-based sanitizer to kill the virus. Cruise ships are more than accommodating. Purell dispensers are everywhere. And in places where food is served, they usually have staff standing by the dispensers reminding people to sanitize their hands.

Apart from that, there isn’t much you can do to prevent getting the virus on the ship. The cruise line has to do the rest. For example, in the recent outbreaks Royal Caribbean has been extensively sanitizing the ships involved. You will the cruise lines doing this on unaffected ships as well.

But most of all, you should keep in mind that these viruses affect a very limited number of passengers. The threat is real, but your likelihood of getting sick on a cruise is pretty slim. Don’t let the headlines keep you from having a great time.

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