Noroviruses are nasty buggers that account for 90% of non-bacterial stomach flu cases worldwide. They’re notoriously rampant in close quarters with relative high populations, such as hospitals and schools, where they pose a serious threat. While cruise ships don’t particularly house noroviruses any better than any other limitedly spaced environment, the ongoing Princess Cruises Sea Princess pseudo-outbreak makes this a good time to talk about how to avoid the stomach flu while aboard. Nothing says “vacation ruined” quite like direct orders from the captain to be quarantined for the remainder of your stay.
An Ounce of Prevention…
In the days leading up to a vacation departure for a cruise, it’s almost a sure thing that working professionals are busy arranging their lives to continue operating while they duck out for a week. This usually means a lack of sleep and poor eating habits as folks get job-related work wiped out in time. Not getting enough sleep and a bad diet are the ideal cocktail for your immune system as far as infections are concerned. Before you leave for your trip aspire to stay in as best shape as you can. Nothing can prepare you for being exposed to germs on the high seas better than making sure your immune system is charged up and ready to do your body’s bidding against foreign threats.
Re-Wash Raw Foods
If an onboard case of norovirus is detected and becomes widespread enough the crew will oftentimes shut the self-serving buffet down. While I can’t suggest you avoid the buffet completely when that’s a big part of what makes a cruise awesome, I do suggest avoiding raw fruits and vegetables unless you’re able to take them back to your cabin and perform a secondary wash. Otherwise you could be eating uncooked food that had countless numbers of hands on it before your own, which is the easiest way noroviruses get around, which leads me to….
Wash Your Hands
This is vital not only to protect yourself but to potentially protect loved ones and other passengers if you’re the one who is sick. The CDC recommends that passengers onboard cruise ships where norovirus is present wash their hands with warm soapy water for 15-20 seconds. Washing before meals is the best way to avoid getting sick yourself. Anytime you touch a door knob or a hand rail or any other surface on a cruise vessel you’re exposing yourself directly to the most popular way these bugs get from one person to another. Pay attention to what you’ve touched before putting your hands anywhere near your mouth or the mouths of others.
Sometimes you can do all of the above and still get sick, or do none of it and make it off the ship scott-free from the stomach flu. But overall you’re much more likely to escape the unforgiving vacation-ruining misfortune of becoming sick with the stomach flu if your body is prepared and you behave responsibly when it comes to matters of personal hygiene. The next time you board a cruise ship make sure you know how to keep your body’s defenses in shipshape and you’re sure to have a good time.