CDC looking into possible norovirus outbreak on cruise ship

4:23 PM, Feb 23, 2014   |    comments
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(CNN) -- Federal health officials are investigating another possible norovirus outbreak aboard a cruise ship that just ended a Caribbean voyage.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 114 passengers and 10 crew members on the Holland America cruise ship ms Veendam suffered vomiting and diarrhea during a week-long voyage that ended Saturday.

A CDC Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officer and an epidemiologist boarded the ship when it arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday, the agency said. The investigators will "conduct an environmental health assessment and evaluate the outbreak and response activities."

The CDC is also testing stool samples from the sickened passengers and crew, the agency said.

Holland America officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Veendam carried 1,273 passengers and a crew of 575, the CDC said.

Hundreds of people aboard two cruise ships in the Caribbean fell ill with norovirus last month. The CDC reported that norovirus hit more than 600 passengers and crew on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas in January, making it one of the biggest such outbreaks on any cruise ship in the past two decades.

The Caribbean Princess, operated by Princess Cruises, cut short its seven-day Caribbean itinerary last month after 178 passengers and 11 crew members were stricken with norovirus. CDC staffers helped sanitize that ship.

The Veendam got a failing grade from CDC inspectors who found multiple sanitation violations, including brown liquid dripping on clean dishes and a fly on the buffet, in September, the CDC said.

"While unacceptable for Holland America Line, the unsatisfactory score is highly unusual and an aberration," Holland America's Sally Andrews said last year.

Inspectors don't tell cruise lines when they're going to show up, but they visit twice a year as part of the CDC's vessel sanitation inspection program. The CDC grades ships on a 100-point scale. An 85 or lower is considered a failing grade. The Veendam received a grade of 77.

"Since 1996, Veendam has received passing scores on 32 inspections," Andrews said.

The Veendam is a 16-year-old ship, christened by actress Debbie Reynolds, that can carry 1,930 passengers and crew, according to Holland America.

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