Date PostedSeptember 17, 2012

Norovirus Strikes on Aussie Cruise Ship

If you are like me you always thought that Australia was exempt from the foodborne illnesses that plague developing countries. While we do have strict food safety standards there are incidents that originate in Oz that would shock many Australians. One such case involved an Australian cruise ship where passengers and staff got sick after ingested the norovirus. 114 of the affected were passengers aboard The Dawn princess cruise ship who all experienced vomiting and diarrhoea.

This post on the Foodsafetynews.com website has more:

Crew aboard the vessel, which is on a 22-day voyage that started August 21 and ends September 13, have taken precautions to sanitize the ship and have notified passengers of the outbreak, encouraging them to report any illnesses and use good hand hygiene to avoid the spread of illness. 

The Australia-based ship is currently traveling along the Alaskan coast. It was scheduled to arrive in Juneau on Friday, at which point CDC said that two of its Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officers would be boarding the ship to conduct an investigation and collect stool samples (which were taken from patients during illness) to be sent to the CDC lab for analysis.

The agency has not yet reported on the results of this boarding.

In February of this year, three Norovirus outbreaks occurred on Princess Cruises’ vessels. Early that month, more than 300 passengers were sickened on the Crown Princess’s voyage to the southern Caribbean. That same week, 100 passengers aboard the Ruby Princess traveling the eastern Carribean fell ill with Norovirus infections.

On the next voyage of the Crown Princess, 374 passengers and 32 crew members suffered from Norovirus illnesses.

Source: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/09/norovirus-on-cruise-ship-sickens-134/

This infection is often diagnosed by doctors as viral gastroenteritis or acute non- bacterial gastroenteritis. Occasionally it is also diagnosed as food poisoning or food infection but it is basically all the same nasty thing, displaying symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, fevers and headaches. Signs of sickness usually show themselves 12 hours to 2 days after contamination and usually lasts only 12-60 hours.

So how can one avoid this form of contamination? Since it is caused by raw foods, eat only cooked foods or fruit and vegetables you have peeled yourself especially when on holiday. Also when on holiday drink bottled or treated water and food handlers ensure you use clean water to wash fruit, vegetables and utensils. Also make sure not to handle food if you have diarrhoea or any of the symptoms of food poisoning. Also avoid shellfish from contaminated waters.

Although vaccines exists to prevent sickness caused by this virus, being cautious and practicing good hygiene is your first line of defence.

Washing your hands thoroughly with clean water and soap is vital especially before preparing food, coming from the toilet, changing diapers and sporadically during your day if you are in the food handling or food preparation industry.

Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly before consuming to avoid contracting illnesses.  Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them, quick steaming is not recommended because temperatures do not reach high enough to kill the sickness causing bacteria.

Food that might be contaminated withnorovirus should be thrown out immediately and people who are sick should never prepare food for people that are not.

Laundry should be washed thoroughly, especially if it is contaminated with vomit or excrement. Surfaces that may be contaminated must also be thoroughly disinfected. Also wear rubbergloves when disposing of items that may have become soiled when you were sick and wash your hands after doing so to ensure you do re-infect yourself because the bacteria may still be present in your stool and vomit.

Food handlers need to be even more cautious and do not undertake any work involving food preparation until fully recovered.

 

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