You’ve spent a lot of time and effort saving up for that once-in-a lifetime vacation: a leisurely cruise taking you and your loved ones across the ocean to some exotic locale.
Then, you get “that” call from one of your fellow travelers warning you about the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas ship disaster last winter during which some 650 passengers and crew members were sickened by a gastrointestinal illness.
As you dig deeper on the Internet, you learn that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified 53 separate outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness between 2010-13 and start to wonder if the CNN headline “Are cruise ships floating petri dishes?” isn’t true.
The likely target of this massive illness: norovirus, an infection that causes the sudden onset of severe diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting, and a leading cause of acute gastroenteritis, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Typically, symptoms can last up to three days and most people recover on their own. But, in some instances, the norovirus may hit older adults, infants and those with underlying diseases harder, necessitating medical attention.
(Cruise ships aren’t the only places where the norovirus infections can spread. Schools, hospitals and nursing homes can be breeding grounds, too.)
A worldwide problem
A recent report in The Lancet Infectious Diseases spelled out the problems with the norovirus on a worldwide scale, featuring data from 48 countries on some 187,000 cases reported from 1990-2014.
You may be very surprised to learn the frequency of norovirus was slightly more common in developed countries (20 percent) than in undeveloped nations (14-19 percent).
“Norovirus spreads from person to person and through contaminated food and water and contact with contaminated surfaces,” said Dr. Benjamin Lopman, the lead author of this study who works in the Division of Viral Diseases at the CDC in Atlanta.
“The virus is contagious that as few as 18 viral particles may be enough to infect a healthy person, while more than a billion viruses can be found in a single gram of an infected person’s stool.
“Our findings show that norovirus infection contributes substantially to the global burden of acute gastroenteritis, causing both severe and mild cases and across all age groups,” Dr. Lopman concluded.
Unfortunately, the study authors believe their conclusions justify the development of a norovirus vaccine. However, there’s really no need for one more vaccine, as long as you follow the six ways to avoid traveler’s diarrhea outlined in a recent blog post.
Research has concluded taking a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic or EndoMune Advanced Junior for kids before a long-distance vacation can boost your family’s immunities naturally and help them avoid norovirus infections altogether.