Hundreds of passengers and crew members fell ill on Ruby Princess cruise ship, CDC says

Hundreds of passengers and crew members aboard the Ruby Princess cruise ship fell ill due to a yet-to-be-determined cause, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said.

Illness reportedly affected 284 of 2,881 passengers on the cruise, which took place between February 26 and March 5. The cruise ship docked at Galveston, Texas, where epidemiologists and environmental health officers from CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program responded to the ship and collected stool samples from sickened passengers.

The CDC has not definitively determined what caused the illness outbreak, but CBS News has reported that Princess Cruises, the company that operated the cruise, believes that the likeliest cause was a norovirus. Per the CDC, noroviruses are the cause of 90 per cent of diarrheal disease outbreaks on cruise ships and are sometimes referred to as the “cruise ship virus.”

The outbreak on the Ruby Princess comes after several major Covid-19 outbreaks on cruise ships during the first days of the pandemic, including an outbreak of the virus on the Ruby Princess itself that led the ship to dock in Australia in March 2020. A number of the passengers sickened on that voyage ultimately died.

Cruise ships have consistently served as vectors for Covid since the onset of the pandemic, with another major outbreak on the Ruby Princess making headlines last spring. Other cruise ships were also the sites of major virus outbreaks, including other ships operated by Princess Cruises. In November, hundreds of passengers reportedly infected with Covid disembarked from a Princess Cruises tour in Melbourne.

There is, however, no evidence linking Covid to the outbreak on the cruise ship’s recent voyage. The Ruby Princess has already embarked on its next trip, a seven-day Carribean cruise. CBS News reported that passengers on the Caribbean trip were informed of the illness outbreak on the previous trip.