Today, we hear about large cruises ships sailing the oceans. These cruises can be romantic getaways in the Caribbean or majestic cruises to Alaska. The cruise ships seem to get bigger and better. They are often equipped with playgrounds, swimming pools, and other amenities. People often mention how amazing the food is onboard cruises.
A cruise line is, in reality, a floating hotel. It has numerous rooms, a kitchen, a number of dining areas, restaurants, poker tables, and more. As such, the Centers for Disease Control, better known as the CDC, created a task force for ensuring passenger safety aboard cruises called the Vessel Sanitation Program, or VSP, to regulate and monitor for gastrointestinal illness aboard cruise ships.
The VSP’s charge is to investigate a cruise ship when 3% or more of passengers or crew members report that they are suffering from gastrointestinal pain. Even if the number is less than 3%, the VSP may still investigate if it determines that there is a pattern associated with the gastrointestinal issues or that the illness is highly unusual.
The VSP, upon alert of an outbreak on a cruise ship, will conduct an investigation. It will review the logs and other surveillance and will ask for records related to the gastrointestinal issues. Upon the commencement of an investigation, the VSP, according to its website, will look to monitor the following issues:
- “Amount of illness throughout the ship.
- Distribution of illness among the passengers and crew.
- When the illness first began.
- Distribution of illness during each day of the voyage.
- Profiles of the ill people’s symptoms.”
The purpose of conducting this investigation, according to its website, is to:
- “Determine the magnitude of illness aboard the ship.
- Identify the pathogen causing the illness.
- Identify risk factors associated with the illness.
- Formulate control measures to prevent or stop the spread of illness.”
In addition to a prelimnary investigation, the VSP may board a ship, as part of its investigation, to:
- Interview passengers and crew members and to pass out questionairres related to the outbreak;
- Target specific areas of the ship that may be the trigger for the outbreak; this aspect of the investigation is targeted, meaning that if it is believed that the ship has mold issues due to water entering certain areas, then the VSP is to focus more of its attention on that area;
- Use a laboratory investigation, which may include administering blood tests, taking stool samples, vomit samples, and anything else that needs to be lab tested to determine the cause of illness.
The VSP has other tools to control disease or help in its investigation. It can request that the ship inform future docking ports before docking or mandate a delay in setting the ship out to sea. It may also ask the ship to institute various disinfecting measures.
Have you been injured aboard a cruise? Do you suffer from illness due to a cruise? You need an advocate on your side. Contact the Kolodny law firm, experienced maritime lawyers.