My Tips in Beating the Norovirus

One movie that I really enjoyed was Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion. If you haven’t seen it, you can read the plot summary and spoilers here (although I would recommend watching it). But the main point I feel was to show that a deadly disease can turn globally viral in only a matter of seconds.

Norovirus is the one word no one wants to hear on a cruise ship (well, that and iceberg but if you’re cruising in a warm tropical climate, iceberg is probably more of a joke than anything else). I won’t go into the scientific specifics of it because I’m sure that one, you wouldn’t understand and two, you’ll be bored to tears. So basically I’ll give you the average person’s low down on it-it’s an extremely contagious virus that can infect anyone. You can get it from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by simply touching surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed, causing you to have stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. In short, it’s like the more evil cousin of the 24 hour stomach bug.

Cruise ships are often ripe for the Norovirus. Some individuals feel that cruise ships are nothing but “floating petri dishes,” thousands of people in close proximity for the entire duration of the cruise so you can see how something like the Norovirus could occur. On a cruise ship (this is the case for most likely every line), when a person calls the ship’s medical office with reports of a Norovirus-like symptom, they are quarantined for a period of time in their stateroom. While you may think this seems unfair and outrageous considering you paid a lot of money for your cruise, it only takes that sick person to touch the doorknob of the door out onto the deck, or him handling the tongs for the French fries at the buffet line to infect dozens of other passengers in a matter of seconds.

However, here’s the bigger picture to keep in mind. Norovirus often spreads because people don’t do the right thing. Often when a person becomes sick with presumably the virus, instead of calling the ship’s medical office, they don’t. They chalk up their stomach pain or nausea to something else less serious. They leave their stateroom and as a result end up putting dozens of other people at risk for contracting the same virus. So what starts as an issue with only one person rapidly spreads into a serious problem.

On my most recent cruise, upon check in at Disney’s terminal, one of the forms they had us sign was basically us declaring whether or not in the last 72 hours had we had any symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. You were to state yes or no for this and then sign and date it. While I could still see plenty of individuals not doing the right thing, Disney does this as a heads up to adequately prepare, although I don’t know what they do to individuals who admitted to having symptoms like those presented listed.

Also, before going into the main dining rooms, there were servers on hand dispensing an antibacterial wipe for you to clean your hands with. Needless to say this is a measure I fully support. When you think of all the places a person’s hands have been in the course of a day, an afternoon, or even an hour, well, you can just imagine. I also saw crew members whose jobs were to clean public doors, that as you can imagine, get a ton of use.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything a person can do to totally prevent Norovirus from striking. On a ship like Disney I know that they are working hard to prevent that from happening but here are a few things you can do yourself-

-Do the right thing and be honest. If you or someone in your stateroom falls ill, report it. While no one wants their cruise to be ruined, it’s better to be sidelined temporarily than have hundreds of people fall ill as well, or even worse, your cruise gets cuts short.

-Wash your hands religiously. Even if it’s something as simple as just returning to your stateroom after taking a walk out on deck, wash your hands. When you touch numerous public surfaces, your hands could have come into contact with a plethora of germs.

-Don’t overstress it. I’ve been on four cruises now and never had any issues. The mind can indeed play tricks on you and sometimes make things worse than they actually are. So just go and enjoy yourself.

My Tips in Beating the Norovirus
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