Avoiding the Norovirus the Navy Way
Following the recent outbreak of norovirus on the Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas the US Navy has spoken how it combats the virus. The illness on the cruise ship affected nearly 700 passengers and crew and forced the ship to return to port in New Jersey.
This followed an outbreak on the Caribbean Princess which stopped a 7 day cruise and infected 178 passengers and 11 crew members. The Navy stated that such an outbreak could cripple one of their ships.
Captain Jim McGovern, commanding officer of the USS Iwo Jima stated that to lose 700 sailors to a single illness would render the ship operationally and combat ineffective. But even the loss of 100 sailors could have a serious effect on operational capability. Therefore the Navy takes outbreaks of as few as 10-20 sailors very seriously.
Each of the 3200 sailors and marines on such as amphibious assault ship are screened before embarking on the ship and are also given inoculations. The aim is to stop the outbreak before it happens.
Once on board, sailors are required to report any feelings of illness. If a sailor is trying to tough it out, a supervisor will make them visit the medical officer. And should a disease show itself, the infected are quarantined to prevent spread.
Monitoring the movements of everyone who is ill is also another key factor. They are separated from the general population and not allowed to visit food stations where they can pass on the illness to larger groups of people.
At 7:30 every day, a cleaning routine comes into place in every Navy ship. Each department has their own space to clean. The kitchens, like any, are cleaned constantly to stop illness spreading via food.
There are also special medicine technicians who make routine inspections during the day to maintain the standards. They also check basics such as clean uniforms, hairnets in place and hands are clean. They monitor areas where dirt and bacteria could build up to stop this in its tracks.
Captain McGovern has himself experienced an outbreak of illness some years before on the ship. Someone with dirty hands had reached into an ice dispenser and infected the contents so anyone that used ice from it, became infected. He saw over half of his small crew fall ill.
The Navy does admit that maintaining these standards is easier under the discipline of their ships. There are no dancing areas, swimming pools or social gatherings spots on Navy ships as there are on cruise ships.
The norovirus is only one example of an infection which could spread on board a ship but is a particularly nasty one. Each year, the illness leads to 21 million people infected, 70,000 hospital stays and even around 800 deaths, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is a particularly nasty stomach virus which comes in different forms each year and can result in stomach cramps, violent vomiting and even diarrhoea. It is also highly contagious.
For more on this story go to: