More than 200 people on a luxury cruise liner have been sickened with a gastrointestinal illness causing vomiting and diarrhea, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
The CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program, which is tracking the outbreak, reported on its website that 201 of the 2,613 passengers on board the Queen Mary 2 -- 7.69 percent -- have taken ill, in addition to 14 of 1,255 crew members on the ship.
Over 90 percent of diarrheal disease outbreaks on cruise ships are caused by norovirus, according to CDC, which can be challenging to control because of the close living quarters and shared dining areas. Norovirus is a very contagious virus that anyone can contract. It is often referred to as food poisoning or a stomach flu.
Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramping, and usually resolve in one to two days. Norovirus can be riskier for young children, the elderly and people with other health conditions who may face severe dehydration that leads to hospitalization and even death.
The illness can be brought on board in contaminated food or water by passengers who were infected while ashore.
At least nineteen people aboard the ship were diagnosed with a gastrointestinal illness as the liner docked Friday in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, the Associated Press had reported Friday.
Cunard Line spokeswoman Jackie Chase said Friday that seven passengers have recovered and that officials aboard the ship have taken steps to prevent other passengers from catching the suspected norovirus. Sick passengers have been asked to remain in their cabins and will be reimbursed for shore-excursion costs.
The liner departed New York on Saturday on a 12-night Caribbean cruise. The ship's next scheduled stop is St. Maarten.
Cunard Line is part of Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise operator.
The CDC said extra medical staff has been sent to the ship, in addition to cleaners who will disinfect the New York Terminal and target hand-contact areas in zones which could be touched by disembarking and embarking passengers.
Stool samples have also been collected by sick passengers that will be taken to the CDC lab and analyzed. Regular announcements have also been to notify onboard passengers and crew of the outbreak, and to encourage case reporting and hand hygiene
Reuters reports that also last week, 189 passengers and 31 crew members were sickened aboard an Emerald Princess cruise ship, owned by Carnival, which arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. last Thursday.
Vessels are required to notify the CDC when 2 percent of those on board develop a gastrointestinal illness, according to Reuters.