Frequently Asked Questions

What is infectious gastroenteritis?

Gastrointestinal illness (gastroenteritis) is inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines. The main symptoms include vomiting and watery diarrhea. Other symptoms may include fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, muscle aches, and headache.

Infections causing gastroenteritis can be viral, bacterial, or parasitic in origin. Norovirus is a common cause of viral gastroenteritis found on cruise ships. Types of bacterial gastroenteritis infections include Escherichia coli and Salmonella.

How does infectious gastroenteritis spread?

Individuals who have gastroenteritis can spread illness to others by touching handrails, elevator buttons, shared utensils, and other people while they are ill. Infections that cause gastroenteritis can also be spread through contaminated food or water.

Can infectious gastroenteritis be prevented?

Yes. You can reduce your chance of getting sick by washing your hands more frequently, keeping your hands away from your mouth, and avoiding any food or water that may be contaminated.

When a higher than expected number of cruise ship passengers or crew get sick with infectious gastroenteritis, ships use additional cleaning procedures and disinfectants to stop illness.

For more information on handwashing tips and techniques, visit Keeping Your Hands Clean on a Cruise.

To learn more about viral gastroenteritis, visit the CDC Norovirus website.
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What should I do if I get sick with diarrhea or vomiting during a cruise?

If you get sick during a cruise, visit the ship’s medical center and follow the instructions of the medical staff aboard the ship. Be considerate of others, and wash your hands more frequently.

What can I do to stay healthy during a cruise?

For tips to stay healthy on your cruise vacation, see our tips for healthy cruising.

What additional measures do ships take when an increased number of passengers or crew get sick?

CDC may advise ships to do the following to reduce the spread of gastroenteritis on board:

  • Implement additional disinfection measures and cleaning procedures.
  • Advise sick passengers and crew to stay in their cabins until they are well for 24 hours after their last episode of diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Report numbers of illness cases to CDC on a daily basis.
  • Stop doing certain high-risk activities or activities during a cruise.

The ship I sailed on had a lot of sick passengers or crew. Where can I find more information about the voyage?

The VSP website lists voyages during which the percentage of sick passengers or crew who reported their illness was over 3%. The website also lists additional outbreak prevention and control strategies conducted by the cruise line. You can find more information about the voyage on our outbreak webpage.

Why can’t children who are not toilet trained use the pools on cruise ships?

Children who wear any type of swimming diaper or other diapers are not allowed in pools because fecal matter may contaminate the water. This can expose other swimmers to fecal matter that is potentially infectious.

Why isn’t the ship I’m looking for listed in the inspection database?

The ship may not be in the inspection database because it does not meet the criteria for VSP inspection. It might not have

  • A foreign itinerary,
  • A U.S. port, or
  • More than 13 passengers.

Looking for more information?

Visit our home page.
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