Norovirus hits cruise ship passengers

Passengers disembarking from the Celebrity Solstice at the Port of Tauranga this morning. Photo: Rosalie Liddle Crawford.

A norovirus outbreak on board the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice has been ruining passengers' holidays for weeks, according to Australian media reports.

A report from Melbourne’s Herald Sun describes passengers falling ill with the vomiting and diarrhoea bug on a cruise from Hawaii to Sydney. Sick passengers were first quarantined on board on October 18.

Bay of Plenty Medical Officer of Health Dr Phil Shoemack says about 16 people on board are currently affected, but about 200 have succumbed during the course of the current voyage.

Ships and aircraft entering New Zealand territory are obliged to inform health authorities if they believe they have an infectious disease on board.

Celebrity Solstice first informed NZ Health Authorities on its arrival at Milford nine days ago, with updates at Dunedin and Wellington.

The onset of the norovirus is usually abrupt with vomiting, sometimes diarrhoea and lasts 24-48 hours at the outside.

“But unfortunately it is really infections,” says Phil.

“Put it in context, this ship’s got just over 4000 people on board. A town of 4000 people in New Zealand, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if there were 50 or 100 people at any given time had norovirus in a town of that size.

“It’s a common infection. Part of the reason for it being so common is it is so easily spread, particularly in any situation of close living, whether that be a boarding school, rest home, or a cruise ship.”

The peak of the current infection is believed to have passed.

The norovirus spreads through direct person-to-person contact, indirectly through ingestion of contaminated food or water.

The Celebrity Solstice arrived at 7.40am as part of a 12-night cruise from Sydney to Auckland via the South Island, and is expected to depart at 6pm today for the Bay of Islands.

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