It was a glorious Sunday morning in San Diego, and we were off for a delightful 10-day cruise to the Baja, Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez, Mexico’s glorious Copper Canyon National Park and wind it up at Cabo San Lucas. An unsettling reality, however, was the statement we needed to sign before boarding, swearing we suffered from no graphically-described physical symptoms. It’s troubling to plunk down big money on a vacation, pack very well, prepare to let go of everything – then wham! We’re told there’s a pretty good chance we will become sick.
Vacations and cruises are supposed to be times of near-perfection, no cares, no worries only pure, pure pleasure. Not necessarily so! The Norwalk virus (Norovirus) is all around us and nearly 23-million Americans suffer from its symptoms each year. “It’s probably the leading cause of diarrhea in the U.S., so when people are assessing their risks of going on a cruise, … they should know that going to that restaurant down the road is just as risky,” stated Marc-Alain Widdowson, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “These are extremely common outbreaks,” he warned.
Any group of people planning to spend time together in a contained region is defined “a community.” Your neighborhood is a community, so is the group of cruise passengers you’re going to be with for several days. According to CDC, cruise ships have the highest sanitation standards in the world and are one of the few industries (communities) required to report on their sanitation which receives frequent, critical inspections.
Not long after acquainting ourselves with our staterooms, our steward handed us a letter from our captain. In it he emphasized, “The biggest problem is the [Norovirus] which is easily spread from person to person.” He added, “It is critical that all guests regularly and thoroughly wash their hands with soap and warm water.” Additionally, the ship’s landscape was liberally dotted with Purell® hand sanitizer stations and a pleasant crew member there to help you remember to use them.
Hand hygiene is the single most important behavior to stop the spread of illnesses and infections. A. C. Neilsen reports the sales of hand sanitizers have doubled since 2003. The Purell® Hand Sanitizer combines 62% ethyl alcohol with blended moisturizers. The alcohol breaks down the germs’ cell walls causing them to die, the moisturizers condition the skin. Once the liquid has evaporated, the germ-killing action has stopped. Do not wipe mixture off of hands, allow drying which is almost instant.
Early on, our fun seemed altered only by the presence of Purell® machines at all conceivable entry points along the lido’s buffets, at all dining room entrances, also outside the casino, lounges, internet café and at all embarcation points.
This story has a good ending, however. At the end of the cruise, the captain was able to give passengers some good news. Only four passengers were reported having intestinal woes aboard ship during the 10 days, and at least three of them ate foods off-ship. All I had been able to do was practice my best cleanliness, and apparently others followed suit too.
Here are some good tips for participating in your own wellness:
Cleanse hands before eating anything. (NOT A QUICK, SOAPLESS RINSE!)
Eat thoroughly-cooked foods
Avoid raw shellfish and salad bars
Avoid eating with your fingers
Avoid touching one’s face and mouth.
Disinfect hands after handling money or credit cards.
Realize all of public seating is bacteria laden.
Do not share utensils and drinking glasses.
Disinfect computer keyboards and mouses.
Disinfect all gym equipment before using.
Drink only bottled water when traveling.
Are you helpless? No! Everybody’s learning better cleanliness habits with some very positive, well-earned results!