LA County Raises Health Concerns Over Cruise Passenger Illnesses

File image courtesy NCL

Published Dec 5, 2019 9:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

This week, officials in Los Angeles publicly expressed concern after two outbreaks of a serious flu aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Joy. The vessel docked in LA after each instance. 

"I am calling on the Center for Disease Control to work closely with our LA County Public Health officials to ensure the passenger illnesses aboard the Norwegian Joy do not become an infectious disease outbreak here in the harbor area. This is the second time in a week that this ship has been forced to dock at the Port of Los Angeles due to passenger illness and it raises serious concerns about the hygiene of this ship," said LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn in a statement. "If the ship is not cleaned to a point that ensures the health and safety of its passengers, it should not be allowed to leave dock."

The Norwegian Joy's last CDC sanitation inspection occured on October 27, and the vessel received a passing score of 93 out of 100. 

On Sunday, firefighters treated 19 passengers for "flu-like symptoms" when Norwegian Joy returned to the pier in Los Angeles. None requested hospitalization. 

During the Joy's previous 16-day cruise, an unknown number of passengers reported that they had come down with what first responders described as an "unspecified and apparently non-life threatening illness." Upon the vessel's arrival in Los Angeles on November 24, firefighters provided six passengers with treatment at the pier. Four requested further treatment at the hospital.

In a statement, a Norwegian spokesperson told media that the illness was "stomach-related," but did not specify the cause. "During Norwegian Joy’s Panama Canal sailing, a few guests on board experienced a stomach related illness. To mitigate any impact of this rare occurrence, we implemented stringent sanitation procedures," the spokesperson said. 

Gastrointestinal illness outbreaks are an occasional occurrence aboard cruise vessels, and the CDC recorded 10 reportable incidents in the U.S. last year. The most common cause is norovirus, a highly contagious disease that is difficult to contain in institutional housing environments. Once established, norovirus requires stringent quarantine, disinfection and sanitation measures.