Miami – One of the largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, returns to a Florida port one day in advance and offers passengers full refund of their ticket after 277 guests and Crew members were affected by an outbreak of norovirus while heading for Jamaica.
Owen Torres, spokesman for the cruise line, told The Associated Press: "We think the good thing to do is get everyone home rather than let the guests worry about their health."
He says the ship will return to Port Canaveral on Saturday. He left there on Sunday for a seven-day Caribbean cruise.
The passengers visited social media on Wednesday, tweeting that they were forced to stay on board after being moored in Falmouth, Jamaica, for what was to be a day of excursions.
Torres said his return a day earlier gave the cruise company "more time to clean and disinfect the boat" before it resumed the sea.
What is norovirus?
norovirus, sometimes called intestinal flu (although it is not related to flu virus), is a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms may include nausea, stomach pain, fever, headache, and body aches.
A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to the virus. People of all ages can be affected by norovirus.
How is norovirus spread?
"When you're sick with norovirus, you can spread billions of viral particles in your vomit and feces, just a few of those particles to make someone sick," says the CDC.
The disease spreads quickly if you eat or drink flu-contaminated fluids, touch contaminated surfaces or objects, then touch your mouth or come into direct contact with an infected person, take care of it, or by sharing food or utensils with them.
The CDC notes that, although people often associate cruise ships with norovirus, acute gastrointestinal illnesses are relatively infrequent on cruise ships. However, the proximity of the places of life on the ship increases the risk of transmission.
How is norovirus treated?
Most people will recover from norovirus in a few days. As norovirus is a virus and not a bacterium, antibiotics will not treat the infection.
If you are sick of norovirus, drink plenty of fluid to replace the fluid lost during vomiting and diarrhea. This will help prevent dehydration.
How can you prevent the infection?
There is currently no vaccine against norovirus, but you can take certain steps to prevent infection. Always make sure wash your hands thoroughlyespecially after using the bathroom or changing diapers; by eating, preparing or handling food; and before you give or give a medicine to someone else.
Healthy food preparation is also important. Make sure to wash thoroughly fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. Oysters and seafood should be cooked well before they can be eaten. Noroviruses are relatively heat resistant and can withstand temperatures up to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Foods that may be contaminated with norovirus should be discarded immediately. Cookware, counters and surfaces should be cleaned and sanitized regularly before preparing food to avoid foodborne illness.