Norovirus Could be the Culprit for Sick Passengers aboard the Ruby Princess

The cruise ship Ruby Princess, operated by Princess Cruises out of California, has been having a hard time keeping away the infamous norovirus from their cruise ship.

The norovirus is suspected as the cause of the recent reported illnesses to many passengers onboard the Ruby Princess, which returned this past Sunday morning to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Ruby Princess has had problems with the norovirus recently. A similar situation existed about a week ago when the Ruby Princess returned with 129 sick passengers, reportedly due to the norovirus. There have been three outbreaks of the norovirus on Princess cruise ships this year alone.

Information about the norovirus, and the outbreaks on cruise ships, can be found on the website of the Center for Disease Control.

The cruise ship companies participate in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s special sanitation program. After an outbreak of the norovirus, which is reportedly spread by touching contaminated surfaces or from affected food and water, must be dealt with by strict sanitation measures aboard the cruise ships. Especially after an initial outbreak, future cruises are at risk if the vessel is not appropriately sanitized.

A newspaper article in the Miami Herald reports that passengers were told of a delay for this last cruise on the Ruby Princess because of the need for sanitation of the vessel following the previous outbreak of the norovirus. Some passengers complained they were not warned about this sufficiently in advance and would not have gone on the cruise if they knew about the prior problem with the norovirus.

Although the presence of the norovirus has not been linked specifically to negligence on the part of the cruise ship company, the number of outbreaks of the norovirus we have seen onboard cruise ships does raise the question whether the cruise ship companies are adequately following the sanitation programs designed to avoid outbreaks of the norovirus. It is very difficult to prove any negligence on the part of a cruise ship company when the norovirus does surface and cause illness to the passengers. It is somewhat more plausible to prove negligence if there are repeated outbreaks close in proximity to each other, suggesting that the cruise line company did not appropriately sanitize the vessel before embarking on future cruises. We all know that cruise ship companies are reluctant to cancel any cruises due to the amount of money they would lose if they do so. It is cruising as usual.

At this time, the illnesses with the passengers have not specifically been linked to the norovirus, although this is the same passenger cruise ship that had an outbreak of the norovirus only a week ago. It is also unclear the exact number of people who may have been affected, although a spokesperson for Princess Cruises said the recent episode involved only a small number of the cruise ship passengers.

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