STAR-BULLETIN / JANUARY 2004
The Queen Elizabeth 2 is expected in Honolulu Harbor tomorrow morning. Here, the cruise ship arrives in Honolulu Harbor in 2004.
Outbreak spurs feds to board QE2 here
About one-sixth of the passengers were reported sick
The Centers for Disease Control is planning to meet the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship when it docks in Honolulu Harbor tomorrow morning, the state Department of Health said yesterday.
A highly contagious form of stomach flu sickened hundreds of passengers during a worldwide voyage on the ship in what health officials called an unusually large outbreak.
Joe Elm, epidemiological specialist with the state Department of Health, said the CDC will meet with the ship's doctor when it arrives.
The federal government is in charge of the ship until passengers actually get off, and the Department of Health is playing a supporting role, Elm said.
Elm added that it appears the outbreak is being controlled.
The QE2 departed Jan. 8 from New York on the first leg of its 106-day cruise around the world. It left San Francisco for Honolulu Wednesday night.
The CDC reported 276 passengers and 28 crew members had come down with norovirus by the time the ship docked Wednesday in San Francisco for a regularly scheduled stop, though only four passengers remained sick.
The infections amounted to nearly 17 percent of the ship's 1,652 passengers, a particularly high percentage, said Jaret Ames, acting chief of the CDC's vessel sanitation program.
The CDC boarded the QE2 on Jan. 19 in Acapulco, Mexico, to investigate the infections. The agency defines an outbreak as an illness that affects more than 3 percent of a ship's passengers.
Investigators determined the emergency sanitation measures put in place by the QE2's crew, from disinfecting casino chips to halting self-service at the ship's buffet, were containing the outbreak.
"This one was a good example where they had a lot of cases but they did gain control over the spread of infection," Ames said.
In rare cases, seniors and young children can die from dehydration caused by norovirus symptoms. The infection, which ranks second only to the common cold in reported cases, usually clears up in two or three days with no lasting effects.
No passengers have canceled their tickets as a result of the outbreak, said Brian O'Connor, a spokesman for Cunard Line, the Valencia, Calif.-based company that operates the QE2.
The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter Craig Gima contributed to this report.