ships don't harbor more germs
By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY
Worried about all the reports of flu-like illnesses on
cruise ships this year?
Relax, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention in Atlanta say. The risk of catching something on a vacation at sea
isn't going up. If anything, it's going down.
"We've seen a decline in the relative number of gastroenteritis
outbreaks since 1990," says Elaine Cramer, a CDC epidemiologist who has studied
the issue. "It just looks like there are more outbreaks, because there are more
ships and passengers at sea."
Cramer is heading up the CDC's investigation of the latest
outbreak of flu-like illness at sea, which occurred this month aboard Holland
America's Amsterdam. More than 400 passengers on four successive cruises came
down with the Norwalk virus, one of the most common types of gastrointestinal
illnesses. Like influenza, it causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It lasts one
to three days.