Anthem of the Seas Cruise Ship New Jersey Norovirus Outbreak

Anthem of the Seas Norovirus Outbreak
Anthem of the Seas Norovirus Outbreak

Some very vocal cruise ship passengers have reported becoming ill while aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s (RCCL) cruise ship Anthem of Seas, during their honeymoon this monthAnthem of Seas was on a 7-night Bahamas cruise and departed Cape Liberty, New Jersey on Saturday, November 4, 2017.

Members of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania resident Ashley Morris wedding party became ill with suspected Norovirus also known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’. The virus was the talk of passengers on the second day of the cruise, leading to conjecture that a passenger came aboard sick.

Anthem of the Seas Cruise Ship New Jersey Norovirus Outbreak
Anthem of the Seas Cruise Ship New Jersey Norovirus Outbreak

There is the possibility, the Morris family brought the virus aboard themselves, though they might not have felt sick when they boarded. Rebekah Wickenheiser, a physician assistant at Patient First Pennsylvania, said a virus was spreading in Pennsylvania earlier this year, it could be the rotavirus or norovirus, but doctors do know it’s spreading quickly throughout Central Pennsylvania.

According to the CDC,  “Norovirus is a highly contagious virus. Norovirus can be found in your stool (feces) even before you start feeling sick. The virus can stay in your stool for 2 weeks or more after you feel better.

In other recent New Jersey norovirus news,  Vineland Veterans Memorial Home located in Vineland, New Jersey is on quarantine due to an outbreak of a highly contagious norovirus among several residents late last week, according to a public affairs officer for the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

It is probable this was a dirty passenger problem with poor bathroom hygiene practices, which infected food in the cruise ship buffet via buffet serving utensils.”

The CDC says, “You can become infected with norovirus by accidentally getting stool or vomit from infected people in your mouth. This usually happens by

  • eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,
  • touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth, or
  • having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus (for example, caring for or sharing food or eating utensils with someone with norovirus illness)”

Anthem of Seas is not listed on the 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships. The CDC requires reporting “when sailing from a foreign port to a U.S. port, cruise ships participating in the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) are required to report the total number of gastrointestinal (GI) illness cases–including zero–evaluated by the medical staff at least 24 hours before the ship arrives at the U.S. port.”

In order to have a reportable level outbreak, 3% of the  4,905 passengers aboard or 147 passengers would have to contracted the gastrointestinal illness AND reported it. “Reporting” the illness requires a trip to the cruise ship doctor which is a billable service.  In other words, a passenger would have to really be horrible sick, in order to warrant the cost of seeing the cruise ship doctor. Generally, only elderly, weak, or those with serious pre-existing conditions would seek medical care aboard the cruise ship.

For 2017,  it is noted that no Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships are listed with outbreaks. Only Princess Cruises, Holland America, Oceania Cruises and Lindblad Expeditions have had re-portable levels of outbreaks this year.

CDC Cruise Ship Outbreak Reporting

It is worth noting the standards for reporting outbreaks when they meet the following criteria:

  • Fall within the purview of VSP
  • Are sailing on voyages from 3-21 days,
  • Are carrying 100 or more passengers, and
  • Are cruise ships in which 3% or more of passengers or crew reported symptoms of diarrheal disease to the ships medical staff during the voyage.
Anthem of the Seas Norovirus Outbreak Nov 2017
Anthem of the Seas Norovirus Outbreak Nov 2017

About Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Medical Staff

According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, Benjamin M. Shore,  Chief Medical Officer  for Royal Caribbean Ltd. “Royal Caribbean Cruise Line physicians must have at least three years of postgraduate training in general practice, internal medicine, emergency medicine or critical care, or board certification or similar international certification or equivalent training and experience in any of the following areas: emergency medicine, family practice, or internal medicine. Nurses must have a minimum of three years recent emergency or ICU experience.

Applicants must hold a medical or nursing degree from a recognized university, a valid medical (physician or nursing) license and advanced cardiac life support and basic life support certifications. Physicians and nurses must be fully conversant in English.”

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line issued this statement, “Anthem of Seas was on a 7-night Bahamas cruise, which departed Cape Liberty, New Jersey on Saturday, November 4. There were a total of 98 reported cases of gastrointestinal illness symptoms, which represents 1.9 percent of the 4,905 guests and crew onboard. Those affected by the short-lived illness are being treated by the ship’s doctors and responded well to over-the-counter medication, and guests were encouraged to ensure hand hygiene standards remain high at all times to prevent the spread of any illness during the remainder of the cruise.”

Other Cape Liberty Cruise Ship Outbreak

In March 2015, Legend of the Seas, also sailing from Cape Liberty, New Jersey had a Norovirus outbreak as well (see video below). On that cruise, 135 of 1746 passengers and 7 of  748 crew were affected. Yet, hundreds alleged to have become infected.

Article Resources:

Video: Cruise ship sick toll nears 700 as it returns into New Jersey ( Jul 31, 2015)