Coronavirus outbreaks and cruises
The news that a 6th person on board a cruise ship from Tokyo has died from the coronavirus Covid-19 has reminded me of the main reason why I would never go on a cruise. Cruise ships can be basically unhealthy places to have a holiday and even more unhealthy places to work!
The coronavirus is just the latest nasty to hit the Cruise world hard. It’s not that hygiene is less effective on-board ships or that the people coming in are dirtier or that the food that is consumed is more likely to be tainted than other food consumed elsewhere. The real problem lies in the proximity of so many people in such a relatively small space. There is nowhere on a cruise ship, unless you confine yourself deliberately to a cabin, where you will not come into close contacts with other passengers and the crew.
Don’t be fooled by the pictures of space. Cruise ships are cramped unless you are one of the wealthiest or passengers who can afford luxury cabins and/or a sea view. Even they have to come out into cramped corridors and a range of facilities which are to say the least very well used. The pools and other health and fitness bases are often crowded with little spare space.
All this means that if a virus of any sort does get aboard proportionately more people are affected than in any other community on land. There is literally no escape from the bugs and often, as a in a case mentioned below, the health authorities in the places you hoped to visit will deny entry to the ship and its passengers.
All this is compounded by the age range of cruise passengers. They tend to be older and therefore more likely to be adversely affected by bugs that a younger or middle-aged person would be able to shrug off quickly.
As well as the coronavirus there are two other main nasties you can quick up.
24 cases were reported in May 2019 in the UK of salmonella poisoning of British people from cruise ships. 12 are female and the median age is 64 years with a range of 40 to 84 years old. The most commonly reported cruise ship destinations are Croatia, Corfu, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Montenegro and Oman.
As Princess Cruises grapples with concerns of coronavirus onboard a ship in Japan, another one of its ships, the Caribbean Princess, was forced to turn around due to a norovirus outbreak. At least 299 passengers and 22 crew members onboard the ship operated by California-based Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. have become sick, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The Health Ministry of Trinidad & Tobago said in a statement it denied the ship entry as a precautionary measure given the outbreak.
However, tummy bugs are not the only problem. Go out on the main deck whilst at sea and you get not a good lungful of ozone and brine but of exhaust fumes from the ship’s engines. Most cruise liners used the lowest possible quality of fuel known commonly as bunker fuel. This is stuffed with a range of toxins that you breathe in. Of course, for a short cruise you won’t be greatly adversely affected but what of the crew who can be onboard such ships for a large part of the working lives?
What too of the considerations for Liverpool as we welcome more and more cruise liners into the City. We have one of the worst records for air quality in the whole of Western Europe but this year we will get into Liverpool a record number of highly polluting vessels. These are good economically for the City. I can see bus loads of them doing the Beatles Tour along Penny Lane when the Liners are in. But are we sure that good for the economy is not, at the same time, bad for our health?
Lastly, let’s talk crap!! Some of the cruise liners have up to 4,250 staff and passengers on board. They all use the toilets and they all create a variety of other wastes, especially food wastes. Where do you think that waste goes? Into the sea untreated. Of course, they don’t do this in sight of land. As I understand it there are specially designated dumping grounds in international waters where they can discharge the waste. Usually done at night so that passengers have no idea of what is happening. This is a gross pollutant and even sea water in remote places is now being found to contain micro particles of plastic and a range of other things that good and clean sea water just wouldn’t have.
I’m not saying don’t go cruising but if you do go be aware that there is more need to consider personal hygiene; who you associate with and what you touch whilst doing so.
But let me give you some good news about the coronavirus. Local councils throughout the UK have excellent plans in hand to tackle and deal with any virus epidemic. One of the things that you as taxpayers shell out for are emergency control measure which we hope that we never have to use. We know how to isolate people, schools, places of work or communities. We know how to care for people and get effective support to them alongside our NHS colleagues.
Of course, all this could be overwhelmed by a pandemic, particular by a pandemic of a particular vicious virus or influenza strain, but local government including the Police and Fire Services alongside transport and health chiefs have a structure in place to deal with any major life-threatening problems natural or man-made.
Lastly, I reproduce the World Health Organisation advice about this matter. Don’t be a Corporal Jones and go around saying don’t panic but panicking. Follow the advice below and you and yours will be ok.
Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus
Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. COVID-19 is still affecting mostly people in China with some outbreaks in other countries. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:
Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.