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Holland America Line Passengers Get Sick on ms VEENDAM

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 60 passengers became ill during the voyage of the Holland America Line cruise ship ms VEENDAM from April 13 to May 4, 2013.  This represented 4.85% of the 1,237 passengers on board the vessel.  The predominant symptoms were vomiting and diarrhea.  In response to the outbreak, the crew increased cleaning and disinfection procedures, notified passengers of the outbreak, and consulted with the CDC.  Two CDV Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officers boarded the ship on arrival in Fort Lauderdale on May 1, 2013 and conducted a targeted investigation into the outbreak and evaluated the adequacy of Holland America’s response.  The outcome of that inspection is still pending.

Like other cruise lines, Holland America Line had other similar outbreaks of illness in the past, including outbreaks on board the ms AMSTERDAM in 2012, the ms MAASDAM and ms RYNDAM in 2011, and the ms ZUIERDAM, ms NIEUW AMSTERDAM, and ms MAASDAM in 2010.  

The CDC Vessel Sanitation Program requires cruise lines like Holland America Line to report the total number of gastrointestinal (GI) illness cases evaluated by medical staff before a cruise ship arrives in a US port from a foreign port.  If the total number of cases on board the vessel exceeds two-percent (2%) of the total passengers, a separate report is required to the CDC.  The CDC investigates these incidents and reports these cases to the public on its website.

Under maritime law, Holland America Line and other passenger cruise lines have a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent the spread of infectious disease on board cruise ships.  This means having an adequate plan in place to limit illness, prevent the spread of disease, take infected employees off work so they don’t expose passengers to illness, and following the procedures in place.  A cruise line should always take measures to prevent the spread of disease and never allow sick employees to work or have access to areas where passengers may be exposed to illness.  Moreover, action should be taken to clean up areas where passengers get sick and prevent the transfer of disease to other passengers.  All public areas must be regularly cleaned to prevent the transfer of disease.

As a passenger on a Holland America cruise ship, there are a number of steps that you can take to prevent yourself from becoming sick.  First, wash your hands as often as possible, especially before eating or drinking, after touching your face, or going to the bathroom.  Second, leave any area if you see someone vomit.  You should report the incident to cruise staff and get out of the area as quickly as possible to avoid transfer of the illness.  Third, you should get plenty of sleep and take care of yourself during the cruise.  Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration.  Finally, if you are sick yourself, avoid going out into public areas on the ship.  If you get sick before the cruise, check with Holland America Line to see if they will offer a refund or give the option of taking an alternative cruise.   

As a passenger, you should be aware that the CDC website reports a score card of various cruise lines and their safety records to prevent the spread of disease.  Before you purchase a ticket on a cruise line, you may want to consider the cruise line’s record on sanitation issues as reported by the CDC.  The data shows that not all cruise lines are in the same boat when it comes to sanitation safety.  The comprehensive CDC scores for Holland America Line may be found on the CDC website.