- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 23, 2002

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) About 100 passengers on a Disney cruise ship contracted a contagious stomach virus, shortly after more than 500 persons on another cruise ship came down with a similar illness, Disney officials said Thursday.
Passengers and crew members on the Disney Cruise Line ship Magic became ill Wednesday. The ship departed Nov. 17 from Port Canaveral with 3,200 persons on board and returns today.
Disney will clean and disinfect the ship at sea, spokesman Mark Jaronski said. Disney's terminal and other locations also will be cleaned.
Sick passengers will be offered compensation. The company has no plans to cancel any scheduled cruises aboard the Magic, he said.
Disney made its announcement the same day that Holland America's cruise ship Amsterdam returned to port for a stem-to-stern scouring after more than 500 passengers on its last four voyages became sick.
Bernadette Burden with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said terrorist attacks have been ruled out as causes for the outbreaks.
"The way the virus has passed by person-to-person contact instead of food or water gives no indication that this was a deliberate act of terrorism," Ms. Burden said.
The Amsterdam had been scheduled to leave on a 10-day Caribbean cruise Thursday, but the voyage was canceled so the vessel could be sanitized. Ms. Burden said the ship will embark on its next 10-day trip Dec. 1.
After the latest passengers disembarked, 573 crew members began cleaning the ship, emptying garbage cans and wiping down remote controls, clock radios, even Bibles. During the next 10 days, crew members will replace 2,500 pillows and dry-clean, steam-clean and disinfect every surface aboard the ship, which is 780 feet long and has 690 staterooms.
"Historically, we've seen a significant reduction in viral eruptions within four days of cleaning the ship," Ms. Burden said.
Molly McPherson with the International Council of Cruise Lines, a nonprofit trade group representing 16 of the major cruise lines, said the cruise industry was not expecting a negative economic effect from the recent outbreaks.
"As long as people are aware that the disease spreads from person to person and take precautions, like washing their hands before and after meals, they should be OK," she said.
The Holland America cruise line said that during the ship's just-completed 10-day voyage, 58 passengers and 18 crew members developed symptoms associated with the Norwalk virus. Eighty-seven of the 1,305 passengers left the ship at various ports in the Caribbean and were flown home.
In all, 454 passengers and 70 crew members have become sick within the past month during four successive voyages aboard the Amsterdam.
The virus, spread through close contact with infected people, can cause diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting. Cruise ships, shopping and day care centers often are breeding grounds for the disease, Ms. Burden said.
"Any place where people are in close contact with each other for a prolonged period of time fuels this sort of virus," she said.
The cruise line had spent more than 10 hours scrubbing the Amsterdam with a chlorine solution before it departed on its latest voyage.
On the cruise, passengers were barred from serving themselves at buffets or touching any food or drinks but their own.
"They were cleaning all the time. You'd see people and then they would not be there for dinner, so you knew they got sick," said Lori Druckeroff, a Boynton Beach, Fla., retiree.
The cruise line is working with the CDC.
Holland America Line is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp.
Staff writer Marguerite Higgins contributed to this report from Washington.


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