A Grand class cruise ship carrying more than 4,100 people was struck by the highly contagious norovirus this week.
At least 158 of 3,009 passengers and 14 of 1,160 crew members aboard Princess Cruises' Crown Princess fell sick from a gastrointestinal ailment caused by the virus. The ship, which departed from Los Angeles nearly a month ago to embark on a 28-day voyage, was met by public health officials when it docked in California on Sunday.
While outbreaks on cruise ships are not uncommon, the latest occurrence aboard the Crown Princess has prompted major health concerns since this is the second time in less than a year that the highly contagious virus has spread on the company's vessel.
"Over the last few days, the ship began seeing an increased number of gastrointestinal illnesses, caused by norovirus," said company spokeswoman Susan Lomax. "In response, we have enacted our stringent disinfecting protocols developed in conjunction" with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 120 people aboard the Crown Princess came down with the virus during a trip earlier in April as well.
Although no deaths have been reported from the frequent outbreaks on ships, public trust in the cruise industry has eroded, it seems.
According to a Harris poll, 54 percent of respondents said they were less likely to take a cruise than they were a year ago. The same majority rated air travel “much safer” than cruise travel.
The CDC estimates that there are about 20 million cases of norovirus in the United States each year, resulting in 570 to 800 deaths. The virus usually clears up in one to three days.