Cruises make enjoyable and relaxing holidays. But they are no fun of you fall ill. Some simple measures can prevent you from becoming sick.
Known as the “cruise ship virus”, Norovirus affects the intestines and stomach. It can cause gastroenteritis and inflammation of the intestines. Normally healthy patients can suffer from vomiting over a few days and even short term memory loss. This is a virus that is associated with the presence of a large number of people in a small area. It is known in hotels, hospitals and schools, but on dry land, a patient can get to a hospital. On a cruise ship on the high seas, the infected person is often locked in his cabin.
Norovirus spreads through physical contact with surfaces, sharing utensils and foods and shaking hands. The most important first step to protect against Norovirus is to wash hands often with hot water and soap. This includes times before and after eating and after touching your face. Person to person contact should be limited as much as possible. At mealtimes, it is better to stick to bottled water and to avoid uncooked food. Self service buffets could become a major infection point. If at all possible, try to avoid eating at these places. A plentiful supply of anti-bacterial wipes and disinfectants in personal luggage is advisable.
Flu is the second most common infectious disease on a cruise ship. Crew members must have a flu vaccination so it is a good idea that passengers also take this precaution. Passengers should get vaccinated at least two weeks before travelling so that anti-bodies have time to develop. As with Norovirus, wash hands often and use tissues if sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.
The Legionella virus can colonise cruise ship areas such as spas, swimming pools and even decorative fountains. It grows in warm water and spreads through inhalation of aerosols. People over 50 and smokers are susceptible to the virus. The best protection is to avoid warm water accumulations, especially spas.
Sea sickness, a form of motion sickness, is not very common on cruise ships because they are stabilised to avoid too much pitching and rolling, however, it is always a good idea to come prepared in case of bad weather, or the discovery that you may be very sensitive to sea movements. First of all, don’t book trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific cruises where the oceans get very choppy. Stick to more enclosed seas such as the Caribbean or Mediterranean, but book a cruise during the time of year when the sea is at its calmest. Avoid rich food and drink alcohol moderately for the first few days until you get your sea legs. Make sure you have eaten something before you board, simple starchy food is the best and get plenty of sleep during the cruise. If you begin to feel sick, don’t lock yourself away in a cabin but get some fresh air. Ginger is a natural cure for sea sickness and many other ailments. Bring along a few packets of pickled ginger, available in all supermarkets.