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Norovirus Outbreak On Cruise Ship Sickens 91 Passengers

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An outbreak of a highly contagious stomach illness known as norovirus sickened more than 90 people on a cruise ship docked in Brisbane, Australia. The ship remained in port Thursday after a public health spokesperson confirmed at least 91 cases of norovirus on the ship.

“We have been advised that on board testing has found norovirus to be the cause of the illness,” a spokeswoman for Metro North Public Health Unit said Thursday, according to the Brisbane Times

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Norovirus, an infection of the gut, is highly contagious but typically lasts just a few days. It can be spread easily through person to person contact or through contaminated food and water. 

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The norovirus outbreak struck a ship similar to the one pictured above, docked in San Diego, California, Nov. 11, 2010. Photo: Getty Images

The affected ship was undergoing a “deep cleansing” during its time docked in Brisbane before it would take on another round of passengers. 

“Consistent with current public health alerts that norovirus and influenza are widespread in the general community in NSW, Victoria and Queensland respectively, proactive and successful steps were taken on board Sun Princess to limit any spread of the illness,” a spokesperson for the cruise line said in a statement Thursday. 

The 91 cases of norovirus constituted the fourth such outbreak on the Sun Princess this year alone, according to the West Australian. Around the same number of passengers were sickened in February after a similar outbreak. Another just two weeks later sickened 176, while yet another struck one week later, sickening an undisclosed number of passengers.

In the most recent incident, the first case was reported the very first day of the cruise. Older passengers on the ship were affected first, according to reports.

“There was an outbreak and we, unfortunately, copped it at the very last minute,” Carmel Sabiljak, one of the ship’s 2,000 passengers, told the West Australian. “It had been brought in by someone who had it out there and brought in on the ship.”

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Cases of norovirus, which result in vomiting, diarrhea, fever, aches and pains and other symptoms, have been spreading on land in Australia as well. An outbreak of the virus at a senior living facility in Brisbane led to the deaths of two older residents this week. Other senior care facilities have been hit as well, leading to the quarantine of at least a few.

“It’s reasonable to say in the last fortnight we’ve had at 20 facilities [affected],” Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Bram Alexandra told reporters.

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