Norovirus Strikes Again: Galveston-Bound Cruise Passengers Fall Ill With Stomach Flu

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

When a cruise passenger becomes ill, is injured in an accident or becomes the victim of a crime on the high seas, they have the right to consult with a cruise ship lawyer to protect their rights and file a claim. Cruise lines have an obligation to exercise reasonable care that everyone onboard is kept safe from harm and when passengers do suffer an injury or a health emergency, offer them treatment in a timely manner. If the vessel does not have the adequate equipment to treat the malady or injury, then the cruise line must exercise reasonable care that the victim is transported to a nearby medical facility for better care. When cruise authorities do not handle incidents in a reasonable manner, they may be found guilty of negligence, and in turn, liable to pay damages to the victims.

One concern for many cruise goers and operators is the risk of becoming sick onboard with Norovirus. Also known as the stomach flu, Norovirus is a common illness that befalls cruise passengers and crewmembers due to the confined spaces onboard as well as the ease with which the virus can spread. While the virus does not necessarily pose a threat to a victim’s life, those infected may suffer complications from dehydration. Norovirus symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and if the victim does not drink plenty of water, they may become seriously ill.

Although Norovirus outbreaks are common each year in the cruise industry, this particular year has seen an exorbitant number of cases among various vessels, leading many to question the sanitation onboard these vessels. Most recently, over 100 people have reportedly fallen ill with Norovirus while onboard a cruise ship headed for Galveston, Texas.

According to Princess Cruise Lines, 102 people onboard the Crown Princess have come down with the stomach virus, which they believe was brought on the ship by a contaminated passenger. However, since Norovirus can spread from person to person contact or via contaminated food or water, it can be extremely difficult to minimize the number of people who will get sick as well.

Dr. Brent Vasut at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston explains that it doesn’t even take much exposure to the virus to become sick.

“It usually starts out with a fever, 50 percent develop acute vomiting, which can be pretty severe,” said Dr. Vasut. “Almost all of them have watery diarrhea.”

Princess Cruise Lines noted that the number of ill passengers has returned to normal levels following a shipboard cleaning. The line added that the Crown Princess will undergo a thorough disinfection when it arrives in Galveston on Saturday. Of course, the same virus can be caught on land. The cruise lines do a good job of dealing with the problem. Princess has a good record on handling on board health matters.