The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 252 of the 919 passengers on board a British cruise to North America have contracted the winter vomiting bug, also known as norovirus. The Balmoral left Southampton in the United Kingdom on 16 April and CDC experts conducted tests on infected passengers while the ship was docked in Baltimore on 30 April and 1 May, the BBC reported.
The CDC also informed that eight of the 520 crew members have come down with the gastrointestinal norovirus condition, which causes up to 21 million illnesses every year in the United States and most commonly appears in nursing homes, cruise ships and day care centers, among other crowded environments.
Balmoral’s owner, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, said in a press release that most of those on board are from the UK and that there have been cleaning and extensive sanitization measures on the cruise ship.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines noted that cases were “particularly highlighted” on cruise ships because people were in close confines, adding that there were 15 guests confined to their cabins, according to the BBC report.
The company declared it was working with maritime authorities and promised it would “continue to make every effort possible to ensure the safety and well-being of all its guests and crew”.
On Sunday morning, the Balmoral was the first ship to visit Portland, Maine, this year. Passengers were welcomed by Mayor Ethan Strimling when they stopped there, according to the Portland Press Herald.
As of Monday, the ship is expected to visit Saint John, located in Canada’s New Brunswick province. It has already been to Azores, Bermuda, New York and Boston.
Not the first norovirus outbreak on board
The Balmoral has been affected by other outbreaks of the illness in recent years. Last May, a number of people were hit by norovirus during an eight-day Scandinavian cruise on the same ship.
More than 310 people fell ill when the ship docked in Los Angeles in 2010. They experienced diarrhea and vomiting. And the illness affected at least 100 people on the Balmoral on a cruise of Scotland the previous year.
The sickness is spread by surface or human contact and normally lasts up to two days. According to the CDC, 10 outbreaks have been reported on ships docked in the U.S. so far this year, compared to 12 for the twelve months of 2015.
Symptoms of the gastrointestinal norovirus condition usually last up to two days and include headaches, stomach cramps, and a sudden onset of diarrhea and/or vomiting. Some patients may experience high temperature.