According to Sandberg, norovirus, a highly contagious though not serious disease with symptoms similar to a common stomach flu, has been closely identified with cruise ships. He advises travellers to purchase a cruise insurance policy with trip interruption coverage to protect their hard earned vacation.
“Norovirus has been called a cruise ship illness, but that’s really not a fair description,” stated Sandberg. “Outbreaks happen at hotels, parties and really any place where people are in close proximity to one another. One difference is that only cruise ships are required to report outbreaks to the US Centers for Disease Control. Any outbreak on a cruise with a US port on its itinerary and affecting more than three percent of the passengers and crew must be reported.”
Sandberg went on to say that there are circumstances that leave ships susceptible to outbreaks. “Out at sea, ships are relatively closed communities where everything from food to water and sanitary supplies like hand towels are shared in relatively close quarters,” he said. “As a result there’s a tendency for any virus introduced into this ecosystem to spread quickly. Bear in mind, you can leave an affected hotel much more easily than you can leave a ship. On a ship the disease pretty much has to run its course.”
According to Sandberg, the good news is that there has been a downward trend in norovirus reporting over the years: “Thirty-four cases were reported to the CDC in 2006, versus 13 cases reported in 2016. So far this year, only one case has been reported.”
Sandberg's advice for protecting against norovirus and other contagious ship-borne illnesses is to follow basic rules of hygiene such as frequent hand washing and not sharing drinking glasses and utensils.
“Cruises are a great way to see the world without continually packing your suitcases, and the chances are that you will enjoy your trip without interruption or illness,” he concluded. “Travel insurance is about protecting your vacation investment without lingering doubts that something could happen.”