While many news reports have focused on increasing norovirus-associated gastroenteritis cases on cruise ships, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that this increasing incidence actually parallels its prevalence on land, in places where there is a high density of travelers, such as airplanes and trains.

The study shows that cruise ship passengers are currently more likely to experience diarrhea and vomiting than they were in the 1990s. However, prospective cruisers need not abandon their plans since cruisers have less than a 1% chance of contracting gastroenteritis while spending an average seven days at sea.

Norovirus is transmitted through person-to-person contact, contaminated food or water, or by touching a contaminated surface, such as elevator buttons and stair handrails.

The best solution to avoiding the virus? Frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 159 – January/February 2007
E H Cramer, C J Blanton, L H Blanton, et al. Epidemiology of Gastroenteritis on Cruise Ships, 2001–2004. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2006;30(3):252-257