The frequent news reports about gastrointestinal illnesses aboard cruise ships may have you wondering if you should cancel the sailing you have been looking forward to.
How do cruise companies control outbreaks of stomach viruses? Does the law provide opportunities to seek financial compensation in the event you or a member of your family falls ill if one of these epidemics occurs?
Cruise ship epidemics
If there is an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness aboard a cruise ship, the incident must be logged according to the requirements of the Vessel Sanitation Program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that when a minimum of 2 percent of the passengers and crew suffer an intestinal illness, the staff must send a report to VSP any time a ship is in United States territory or within 15 days of arrival at a U.S. port. Ships carrying at least 100 passengers on voyages of three to 21 days must file this kind of report.
In 2017, the norovirus was the culprit in nine out of 11 cases of illness aboard ship. The VSP is responsible for a surveillance system that follows gastrointestinal illness patterns and will investigate any illness patterns that appear to be unusual. VSP surveillance logs specific symptoms, the date and time the illness occurs and how far it has spread among passengers and crew.
Maritime law coverage
Those who fall ill due to a gastrointestinal illness while on a cruise may be eligible for compensation under general maritime law. Types of damages include medical expenses, loss of wages, emotional distress, pain and suffering and others, depending on the circumstances. You do not want to spend your vacation coping with the norovirus or a similar outbreak, but it is good to know you may have legal recourse to cover the costs of the illness if the worst should happen.