At least 220 people — and possibly hundreds more — were sickened as a norovirus swept Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas cruise ship, which departed Fort Lauderdale for Labadee and Jamaica this week, reports WPLG.
The ship left on Monday. By Wednesday, hundreds had fallen ill. While medical staff and crew tried to keep up with the rampaging virus, they were overwhelmed by the speed and spread of the disease. The Independence of the Seas reportedly set sail with just three full-time nurses for the 5,547 guests on board.
Some passengers reported waiting hours to be seen by medical staff, who were treating the illness with over-the-counter medications. To make things worse, while in line, those sickened by the virus were reportedly vomiting in the halls and elevators of the ship.
“They started running out of water and basic supplies,” Independence of the Seas passenger Marsha Homuska told WPLG.
Instead of waiting for hours and watching fellow passengers cough, retch and vomit, a number of passengers simply didn’t make it to the medical ward at all. They opted to return to their rooms to recover from the suspected case of norovirus, which means the true count of those sickened on the Independence of the Seas may never be known.
Norovirus is common in confined institutional settings like prisons, hospitals and cruise ships; it is often spread through contaminated food and drink. A stomach virus, it’s not treatable by antibiotics and often must be left to work itself out. It often causes nausea, discomfort, vomiting and diarrhea.
Crew members wore gloves as they helped passengers disembark from the ship, which will be “deep cleaned” to prevent the virus from lingering any longer.
“Those affected by the short-lived illness were treated by our ship’s doctors with over-the-counter medication, and we hope all our guests feel better quickly,” said Royal Caribbean spokesperson Owen Torres.
The Miami Herald reported that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-approved “enhanced sanitizing procedures” would be implemented out of an “abundance of caution.”