Cruise Ship Docks in Portland; 260 Passengers Sick with Norovirus

Cruise Ship Docks in Portland; 260 Passengers Sick with Norovirus
Science & Medicine

Over 76 cruise ships are expected to dock in Portland, Maine this season, and the first one that arrived contained a ship full of holiday makers with norovirus. Of the 919 passengers and 520 crew members aboard the Balmoral, over 260 were taken ill with the disease. [1]

The highly-contagious illness causes many unpleasant symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, fever, cramps, chills, and a terrible headache. While symptoms only last a few days, it is possible to infect others for up to three days after recovery, and the illness can pass through contaminated food and drink as well. The disease can only be eradicated in a space where others have contracted it with a very strong bleaching agent.

The cruise, which began in Southampton, United Kingdom, had over 27% of its inhabitants taken ill. However, by the time they arrived in Portland, Maine, only six passengers were still quarantined. Fred Olsen Cruises, who owns the Balmoral, has said that its standard is to have ill patients remain in their rooms for 48 after symptoms disappear. This exceeds the Center for Disease Control requirement of 24 hours in quarantine.

Passengers noted that the crew was very diligent about ensuring the disease did not spread. This was done by constantly wiping down handrails, elevator buttons, and anything else people were touching regularly. They have also taken precautions by regularly shutting down the public restrooms on board and asking passengers, instead, to use the bathrooms in their cabins. This will hopefully help prevent the further spread of the virus.

The ship arrived in the USA in Baltimore on April 30, where officers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and an epidemiologist got on the ship to inspect the outbreak. Samples were taken and a quick test for norovirus was ruled positive, however further samples have been sent to the CDC for more analysis. [2]

The Maine Medical Center has said that there hasn’t be an outbreak in Portland from the cruise ship passengers and they aren’t overly concerned. In fact, during the docking at the Portland harbor, only about half of the passengers got off to visit the city due to the damp and rainy weather.


[1] Portland Press Herald

[2] Washington Post

Featured image credit: Jill Brady, Staff Photographer for Portland Press Herald