Can You Limit Your Chances of Contracting Ebola on a Cruise Ship? Our Maritime Attorney Has an Answer

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Ebola_virus_emIt seems like all anyone can talk about these days is Ebola. Sure, we can understand why. I mean, we are in the midst of the largest Ebola outbreak in history. And, there have been a number of Ebola-related cases (one of them fatal) in the United States. Let’s not forget the fact that Ebola is one of the deadliest viruses on the planet. Even for the very, very lucky few who recover from Ebola, the virus can still cause lifetime complications with health.

Naturally, it’s safe to say everyone’s pretty shaken up right now and worried about Ebola. The same goes for each maritime attorney at our firm. But while over 5,000 people have already gotten sick (mostly in West Africa), the fear and threat of becoming infected with Ebola is exponentially higher for travelers. There is no world-wide travel ban, which means that an infected person may board a plane, Greyhound bus, or even a cruise ship. Steps are being taken to prevent travel of those who might be infected. Still too early to know if this can help or not.

Disease can spread especially fast on a cruise ship, given a vessel’s confined features. We’ve already seen dozens of Norovirus outbreaks, so what’s to stop a virus like Ebola from spreading? We certainly know the cruise lines will move heaven and earth to prevent Ebola stricken passengers from taking cruises and if the disease manifests itself while the person is on board, to take extraordinary precautions. The entire cruise industry was rocked after a Dallas hospital lab worker boarded the Carnival Magic ship after having possibly been exposed to Ebola from a now deceased patient at the facility.

So then, what can potential cruise passengers do to reduce their chances of getting sick? Is there anything that can be done?

Well, while no way to know 100 percent that someone on a cruise ship does not have Ebola – unless cruise lines start testing passengers before boarding – there are a few things travelers can do to limit their chances of contracting Ebola. Let’s check them out:

  • Wash hands frequently – Ebola spreads from contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. This means that someone who has the virus can cough or sneeze on their hands, then touch a doorknob, chair, or any other piece of equipment on a cruise ship. Even after sanitation, Ebola can live on surfaces for about six hours! The best way to reduce your chances of getting sick is to wash your hands as often as possible and refrain from touching your own eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Sanitize your belongings – Bring sanitation materials with you on your cruise, such as hand sanitizers or sprays, and use them frequently. Don’t just use them on yourself, but disinfect your belongings as well. Put your toothbrush away right after you use it, and remember never to leave personal grooming materials out in the open. A ship’s housekeeping staff – if sick – may inadvertently contaminate your belongings if you leave them out. Put all toiletries back in your suitcase and away from any areas where another person might come in contact with them.
  • Use plastic utensils – Some cruise lines offer guests plastic utensils instead of regular metal ones. If there are plastic utensils available on your ship, use them. Disinfecting utensils from Ebola is no small feat, but by using disposable utensils, you know that no one else has – or will – come in contact with them. Though you might not be able to get away with bringing your own utensils – depending on the line – you might want to bring our own set of plastic utensils on board. Hey, the worst that can happen is the cruise line makes you throw them away at check in.
  • Avoid congested areas – The more people that are occupying an area, the higher your chances of coming into contact with a virus like Ebola. Try to avoid crowded areas and confined spaces as much as possible. This can be hard because you’ll be on a cruise ship with possibly thousands of other people, but here are a few tips: take the stairs instead of the elevator, wait until buffet lines die down, and avoid crowded lounges.
  • Serve your own meals – Most cruise lines offer buffet-style meals, which means you can serve yourself. Though there’s no telling whether the chef wore proper sanitation equipment when preparing meals, at least you can avoid another person from coming in contact with your food by serving yourself or ordering room service.

These are just a few of the many ways your chances of contracting Ebola on a cruise ship can be reduced. But remember, there are no guarantees and every potential cruise passenger should know that they are sailing at their own risk. In the end, you can be certain that the cruise lines will take this issue seriously and do everything in their power to keep their passengers and crew safe. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is also good business. So enjoy your cruise but take some extra care for yourself and your family.