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Local Doctor Weighs In as Illness Spreads Quickly on Cruise Ship - abc27 WHTM

Local Doctor Weighs In as Illness Spreads Quickly on Cruise Ship

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Lynchburg, VA - The Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas is heading home early, after nearly 600 people on board got violently sick.

Federal health officials are looking into whether it is an outbreak of norovirus.

Within 24 hours of launching from New Jersey, the first passengers started getting sick.

Royal Caribbean says it will compensate the passengers.

Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas departed last Tuesday and just 24 hours into the 10 day cruise the first reports of illness came in.

"Caught it within the first 24 hours, the fever just kept going up and um I realized when I couldn't keep a tablespoon of water down," a passenger said.

Since then, nearly 600 hundred of the 3,000 passengers on board, including 50 crew members, reported feeling severely ill.

The exact cause of the illness is unknown, but Royal Caribbean says the symptoms appear to be consistent with the highly contagious Norovirus.

Lynchburg General Hospital Emergency Physician Doctor Thomas Forsberg says the type of virus is fast-spreading and most prominent in the winter months.

"It's extremely contagious. The norovirus can be caught by person to person contact, it can be caught by foods or water that are contaminated as well," Dr. Forsberg said. "The symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, you can have a low grade fever some headaches and some aches and pains as well"

This same bug was blamed for an outbreak last year on the Queen Mary 2.

Yet these incidents don't seem to be keeping customers away.

A local travel company says this is the height of the cruise season and they haven't seen any change in demand.

Dr. Forsberg advises taking simple, preventative steps to stay safe.

"The best way to prevent it is, soap and water. However hand sanitizers can be used in addition," Forsberg said.

Royal Caribbean says when Explorer returns to port Wednesday all guests on board will receive onboard credit, as well as a future cruise certificate for 50% of their ticket.

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