The Norwegian Cruise Lines ship Joy has sailed into the Port of Los Angeles with 25 people suffering flu-like illness in the past week, and federal health officials say outbreaks are common where food is served.
Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics Sunday evaluated 19 people who began having flu-like symptoms aboard the cruise ship. All declined transport to a hospital, said LAFD spokeswoman Margaret Stewart.
On Nov. 24, paramedics were sent to Berth 91 at the Port of Los Angeles at 9:17 a.m. and evaluated six passengers, determining that four of them required hospital treatment, said Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
The cruise line issued a statement about the incident that said: “The safety, security and well-being of our guests and crew is our number one priority. As such, we operate at the very highest public health standards. 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. As always, we will continue to monitor this situation.”
The Centers for Disease Control noted on its website that the leading cause of flu-like disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the U.S. is norovirus.
“Infected food workers cause about 70% of reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food,” according to the CDC. About 20 million people get sick from norovirus each year and most is from close contact with infected people or eating contaminated food.
“Norovirus often gets attention for outbreaks on cruise ships, but those account for only about 1 percent of all reported norovirus outbreaks. Norovirus is very contagious, and outbreaks can occur anywhere people gather or food is served,” the CDC said.
In a statement, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn called on the CDC to work closely with L.A. county health officials to ensure passengers aboard the Norwegian Joy do not become part of an infectious disease outbreak in the harbor area.
“It raises serious concerns about the hygiene of this ship,” she wrote. “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.”
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