This Season’s Cruise Ship Norovirus Cases are the Highest in 10 Years

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Credit: alonso-reyes-unsplash

The number of norovirus cases on cruise ships this season has reached its highest point in 10 years. What is the cause? Intrigues a coastal news source.

Two cruise ships recently affected by norovirus outbreaks arrive

Two cruise ships recently affected by norovirus outbreaks arrive in Halifax this week. When the Celebrity Summit and Viking Neptune come into port on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, the HRM will see the two most recent cruises to report onboard outbreaks of the stomach bug in 2023, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. The former saw 177 passengers and crew fall ill during a May 2023 voyage from New Jersey to Bermuda, while more than 13% of the Neptune’s 838 passengers reported symptoms of the virus during a June 2023 crossing from Iceland to New York that docked in Halifax along the way. Reported cases of norovirus—which spreads through contact with poop or vomit (fun!) and causes diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps (even more fun!)—are currently on the rise across the cruise industry. Per the US CDC, 13 cruises visiting American ports have reported outbreaks of the virus in 2023—more than in any year since 2012, and the season still has three months to go. (The Public Health Agency of Canada monitors norovirus cases on visiting cruise ships, but doesn’t actively report them.)

Norovirus is a tricky bug, because of how easily it spreads. An infected person sheds billions of sub-microscopic particles, the CDC says, and it only takes a few of those particles to get you sick. Plus, cleaning surfaces or your hands with alcohol-based sanitizers doesn’t work; instead, it’s recommended that you wash your hands with soap and hot water. It’s not just cruise ships getting hit with the bug, either. Federal health officials confirmed “increasing” cases across the country earlier this year, and winter norovirus prompted several US schools to close in January and February. That alone isn’t cause for immediate concern, at least according to one microbiologist: “What we’re seeing are the numbers of infections returning to what was the normal baseline before the pandemic,” microbiology professor Lawrence Goodridge, an expert in norovirus surveillance, told CBC News in February.

A Viking spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the outbreak is believed to have originated from several of its passengers dining at a “shoreside restaurant in Iceland.” (Eating raw shellfish is another cause of norovirus—and for my money, one far more palatable than unwittingly ingesting or inhaling poop.) The origins of the outbreak aboard the Celebrity Summit are unknown. With that, erm, “business” attended to, let’s get into the rest of this week’s arrivals:

Monday, Aug. 7

The Atlantic Star container ship returned to Halifax from Liverpool, UK, this week. It arrived from Merseyside just after 5:30am Monday morning and left for New York City later in the evening. On its heels, the 140-metre-long Vivienne Sheri D container ship came into port from Reykjavik, Iceland. (No word if the crew ate at any shoreside restaurants before their departure.) The ship is owned by Ontario-based Doornekamp Shipping Ltd., but chartered by Eimskip—a company which, in 2021, admitted to colluding with another shipping company in fixing prices on shipping routes. Eimskip agreed to pay the equivalent of $14.7 million in fines for its involvement.

Finally, the Harbour Fountain and Hellas Fighter oil tankers arrived in Halifax, from New York and Antwerp, Belgium, respectively. The former was still docked at the Irving Oil Terminal as of early Tuesday morning, while the latter was docked at the Imperial Oil Terminal.

Tuesday, Aug. 8

Welcome to the aforementioned Celebrity Summit. The 2,100-passenger cruise ship left New York on Sunday and will carry onward to St. John’s, NL, Greenland and Iceland after its Halifax stop. The Patara vehicle carrier—named for an ancient Turkish port city— is expected to arrive from Emden, Germany around 10:30am. The ship has a carrying capacity of around 5,000 cars. It will leave for Setubal, Portugal, after its Nova Scotian sojourn.

Finally, the STI Marshall oil tanker is slated to arrive from Amsterdam, Netherlands, around 2pm.

Wednesday, Aug. 9

Along with the Viking Neptune, three other ships are expected in port on Wednesday: Both the Oceanex Sanderling ro-ro/cargo and Atlantic Sail container ship are slated for arrival. The former is due at 8am on its weekly voyage from St. John’s, while the latter isn’t expected until closer to 11pm at the Fairview Cove Terminal. The NYK Meteor container ship is also due around 10am at the Fairview Cove Terminal. It’s inbound from Saint John, NB, and leaves next for Southampton, UK.

Thursday, Aug. 10

The last cruise ship to arrive this week is also the largest: The 3,100-passenger Caribbean Princess is due for its second Halifax stop of 2023 around 7am. (Its operator, Princess Cruises, was fined US$40 million in 2016 for dumping oil-contaminated waste into the ocean and then attempting to cover it up.) The ship arrives via Charlottetown, PEI, after earlier stops in Quebec City and Saguenay, and will return to Halifax again on Aug. 16.

Later on, the Nolhan Ava ro-ro/cargo ship is due around 6pm from St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Friday, Aug. 11

Four ships are expected in port on Friday: The ZIM Shekou, ONE Grus and Contship Art container ships and the CSL Tacoma bulk carrier are all slated for arrival in Halifax to end the week. Three of those ships are behind schedule, the Shekou being the tardiest of all—the 260-metre-long ship was originally scheduled to arrive in Halifax from Valencia, Spain, almost 15 days ago.

The CSL Tacoma is the first scheduled arrival of the group, due at 5am from Delaware. The Contship Art is the last expected arrival of the day, around 9pm from New York. It will leave Halifax for Kingston, Jamaica.

Saturday, Aug. 12

Three large container ships are all due in Halifax on Saturday, starting with the CMA CGM Chennai. The ship has a carrying capacity of 119,000 tonnes and room for 10,000 20-foot steel containers—enough containers that, if they were laid out end-to-end, would span from Halifax to Windsor. It’s due at the South End Container Terminal at 6am from Tanger Med, Morocco. The 294-metre-long MSC Pratiti container ship is the next slated arrival. It’s expected at the South End Container Terminal around 11am from Sines, Portugal. The ship is currently five days behind schedule, and will carry onward to Montreal. The Pratiti’s owner, Mediterranean Shipping Company—also the largest shipping company in the world—made headlines last year for its ships being infiltrated by a cocaine-smuggling ring. The biggest splash came in 2019, when US border officials seized roughly $1-billion worth of cocaine from aboard the Gayane during a stop in Philadelphia. (In a statement to Bloomberg, MSC spokesperson Giles Broom called his company “by far the industry leader in anti-smuggling efforts,” and countered that “there is a limit to what anybody should expect from a company and from civilians doing their job: We are not a law enforcement body and we are not mandated, resourced or trained to confront dangerous organized criminal groups.”) The MSC Rikku is also due in Halifax on Saturday, around 9pm. It’s currently en route to Baltimore, Maryland, from Savannah, Georgia. After its Halifax stop, the ship will carry onward to Saudi Arabia.

Sunday, Aug. 13

Just one ship is scheduled for Sunday: The NYK Demeter container ship is expected from Antwerp, Belgium sometime between 5am and 8am. It’s currently five days behind schedule. The ship will dock at the Fairview Cove Terminal.

 

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Source: The Coast