Protecting Yourself against Cruise Ship Norovirus Gastro Illness
Do you love cruise ship holidays? Most people do, though as fun as cruise ship holidays can be, most people who've been on a cruise ship have experienced or know someone who's fallen victim to 'Cruise Ship Gastro', the infamous cruise ship virus illness known as Norovirus. The last time I was on a cruise ship it was like a plague, so many people we met on the ship were struck down with Norovirus, they were dropping like flies.
So what is Norovirus and what can you do about it to protect yourself next time you're on a cruise ship holiday.
What is Norovirus?
Norovirus causes the stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis). This leads to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomitting.
How do you contract NoroVirus? Noroviruses are very infectious and can spread easily from person-to-person. Both faeces and vomit are infectious. People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:
touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then placing their hands in their mouth, or eating before washing their hands
eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus by food handlers who have not washed their hands adequately or from environmental contamination
having direct contact with another person who is infected, for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill.
Signs and symptoms of Cruise Ship Norovirus Norovirus infection causes gastroenteritis. Illness often begins suddenly and symptoms usually last 1 or 2 days. However, during that brief period people can feel very ill and vomit, often violently and without warning, many times a day. Common symptoms include nausea , vomiting , diarrhoea , abdominal cramps. Other symptoms may include: headache , low grade fever , chills , muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness.
How do the Germs Spread?
It's not the cruise ships that cause the illness. Norovirus happens on land too. Most people know that any place with thousands of people in a confirmed space, you're going to be exposed to germs. It's the large number of people in close proximity that make cruise ships a hot bed for norovirus. So it's not the ships that are sick; it's the folks who came onboard and pass the illness around. Norovirus is, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the most contagious gastrointestinal illnesses in the world.
Restrooms both cruise cabin restrooms and public restrooms are filled with germs. Though as 'ikky' as toilet seats can be, the greatest safety risk doesn't actually come from sitting on the toilet seat, it's what's lurking in the rest of the bathroom that is cause of concern.
Did you know that every time the toilet is flushed, it launches a ploom of germ filled droplets into the air, that travel upto 2 metres. Those germ filled droplets land on the person using the toilet and the surfaces in the restroom.
Norovirus germs can survive on surfaces for upto 2 weeks, even after surfaces have been cleaned!
All of those germs get on people's hands that they then spread onto every surface they touch. The germs are on the toilet flush, on the door knobs, the taps and the door handles, which you and your cruise ship companions then spread to all parts of the ship - from the TV remote control, to mobile phones, the dining tables, the buttons in the elevators, the stair wells. You name a surface in a cruise ship - it's been touched by thousands of germ-ridden hands.
When you touch a surface in the cruise ship that's contaminated norovirus and then place your hands in your mouth or eat before washing your hands - bingo, you're potentially next inline to be struck down with norovirus.
Of course, not every person exposed to norovirus will come down with the virus or symptoms. Some people's immune systems will fend off the attack. Though many people on cruise ships, even those with good health, succumb to this dreaded illness.
What about washing hour hands, doesn't that get rid of the germs?
Even if you wash your hands, you may not do it properly, says Tierno, author of The Secret Life of Germs. "Some individuals move their hands quickly under a flow of water for only a second or so, and they don't use soap. That's not going to do much good."
Washing the hands is important, though statistics show that 95% of peopole don't wash their hands properly. “Around 60 percent of women wash their hands properly, while the number is much lower for men, at around 30 percent at most,” says Jason Tetro, author of the Germ Code.
And even if a person does wash their hands properly, unless they continue to sanitise their hands through out the day, each time they touch a cruise ship surface, they are potentially re-exposed to the germs.
So what can you do to protect yourself? The answer isn't to call off your cruise ship vacation. No one wants to do that. Though there are steps you can take to protect yourself to reduce the risk...
Tip 1 - When you arrive in the cruise cabin, do a sanitising spritz.
Spray or wipe the TV remote control, light switches, door handles, shower knobs, toilet seat and tap with a sanitiser.
I use the Young Living Thieves Spray, it fits in the travel bag easily and is a powerful sanitiser.
The Thieves Wipes are also a great option for cleaning and sanitising cruise cabin surfaces.
Tip 2 - Spray or wipe the toilet seat and bathroom surfaces in your cruise cabin and in public rest rooms with a sanitiser
Flush with the lid down on the toilet seat.
Exit the cubicle quickly after flushing
Tip 3 - Wash your hands thoroughly after you use the toilet
Make sure to use soap not just water. Though on a separate health topic, most anti-bacterial hand soaps used in cruise ships and public restrooms contain harmful chemicals, including triclosan, which has been linked to host of health problems including hormone disruption and infertility.
Instead of using the chemical soaps, I use the Young Living waterless hand purifier. Its small compact size makes it perfect to fit in the travel bag or handbag.
With the Thieves waterless hand purifier, it's designed for use in public restrooms and travel. It's a waterless hand wash, meaning you don't need to use water.
I simply use a small dollop of the Thieves waterless hand purifier, rub the hands together. Plus, it smells great and doesn't dry the skin.
Wash your hands before eating
We've talked about what cleaning the hands in the restroom, though your hands are coming into contact with potentially contaminated cruise ship surfaces all day long.
Tip 4 - Sanitise your hands before eating
Before eating, and before putting your hands near your mouth or eyes (germs travel very easily through the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and eyes), wash or sanitise your hands.
Again, I carry the Thieves Waterless purifier for this. It's compact size allows it to easily fit in my pocket or hand bag. I simply use a dollop of the gel on my hands at the dining table before eating. purifier
Other steps you can take include avoid eating uncooked food as much as possible. Stick to bottled water, and don't share drinking glasses and eating utensils.
Hopefully by using these 5 tips, your next cruise ship vacation will be a safe and healthy one.
What is Thieves Spray? It's an all-natural spray concentrate from Young Living. Based on the Young Living Thieves essential oil blend of clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemon and rosemary essential oils, the Thieves spray features all-natural plant based ingredients without any harmful chemicals. Find out more about Thieves Spray and the Thieves Spray all-natural ingredients here.
Where to Buy in Australia?
In Australia? Then purchase your Thieves products here.
In the USA or elsewhere in the world? Then click here to view Thieves Spray and add it to your shopping cart.
See the next parts of this series of Avoiding Gastro & Staying Healthy on Your Next Cruise Holiday