Cruise ship outbreaks are in the news once again. While cruise ships can be struck with cases of norovirus that can sicken up to 700 people, the industry’s most recent illness outbreak involves measles. The prevalence of cruise ship outbreaks has many wondering why do cruise ships seem to be the perfect breeding grounds for infectious diseases. Today, a CNN report tries to offer an answer.
To help get to the bottom of the issue, CNN interviewed Claire Panosian, a professor emeritus in the division of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Panosian told CNN that cruise ships act as an incubator for viruses and other illnesses because cruise ships cause dense groups of people to be enclosed in relatively restricted spaces.
"When you have a lot of people in a closed environment, whether it's a nursing home or an institution like a school or a cruise ship, it's more like an incubator because people are in closer proximity and viruses can end up in the air and on surfaces that people touch," she told CNN.
Though there were 11 cruise ships outbreaks reported last year, it is possible that a far greater number of vessels experienced significant spread of disease. This is because, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 3% or more of passengers and crew must fall ill for the incident to qualify as an outbreak.
What is the best way to protect oneself against disease outbreaks? Among the many recommendations, the CDC says passengers should:
- Avoid bug bites
- Take care to only consume clean food and water
- Wash hands frequently
- When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with your sleeve instead of your hands.