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Gastrointestinal illness outbreak infects 150 people on luxury cruise

FILE - Over 150 people were reported sick with a gastrointestinal illness onboard the Queen Victoria cruise ship since its Jan. 11 departure from Southampton, U.K. Mike Jones / Kos Picture Source via Getty Images

Over 150 people onboard the Queen Victoria cruise ship came down with more than just the travel jitters in recent weeks after a gastrointestinal illness hit the luxury voyage, sickening travellers with diarrhea and vomiting.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) on Thursday said throughout the Cunard Cruise Line ship’s entire voyage, 129 passengers and 25 employees were reported sick. There is no clear cause for the outbreak.

The 107-night cruise departed Southampton, U.K., on Jan. 11. The voyage ends back in Southhampton on April 24 after visiting destinations including Cape Town, South Africa and Hong King, China. The Queen Victoria departed San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday and is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Monday.

The CDC began remotely monitoring the situation on Jan. 22 when the ship docked in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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In response to the outbreak, employees onboard the Queen Victoria increased cleaning and disinfection procedures and isolated sick passengers and crew members. As part of the ship’s outbreak prevention and response plan, current and embarking passengers and crew were notified of the illness.

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In a statement to the New York Times, Cunard Line acknowledged the reports of gastrointestinal illness onboard. The company said it immediately activated its “enhanced health and safety protocols to ensure the well being of all guests and crew on board.”

Cunard Line said the health and safety measures “have been effective.”

NBB Bay Area spoke to passengers while the ship was docked in San Francisco, many of whom seemed unconcerned about the outbreak. Phil Manser told the outlet that the crew members “haven’t told us too much” about the illnesses, but he learned from other news sources over 100 people were sick.

Several passengers told NBC they would be staying onboard the Queen Victoria for the remainder of their voyage. In total, the luxury cruise ship is carrying over 1,800 passengers and almost 970 crew members.

According to the CDC, cruisegoers should be cautious of exposure to new environments and high volumes of people, including other travellers. The public health agency encouraged people to wash their hands often to avoid the spread of germs and to get plenty of rest and drink enough water. If someone is sick onboard, travellers should leave the area and report the instance to a staff member if they are not aware.

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If you become sick while onboard a cruise, you should call the ship’s medical facility and follow the instructions of medical staff.

Acute gastrointestinal illnesses, including norovirus, are “relatively infrequent” on cruise ships, according to the CDC.

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