The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report about a significant viral outbreak on the Celebrity Summit, a cruise ship traveling from the United States to Bermuda. According to the CDC, 177 individuals on board fell ill with the Norovirus, a highly contagious stomach virus. This included 152 passengers and 25 crew members. The symptoms reported were diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and headaches, all characteristic signs of the Norovirus.
The cruise line responded promptly to the situation by disinfecting common areas on the ship and collecting stool samples from the affected passengers to be sent to a CDC laboratory for further analysis.
Norovirus is known to spread rapidly, particularly in confined spaces such as cruise ships. The CDC describes the virus as highly contagious and capable of spreading through contaminated water, food, surfaces, or by direct contact with an infected individual. Infection usually starts between 24 to 48 hours after exposure and lasts up to three days. The Norovirus annually causes between 19 and 21 million cases of vomiting and diarrhea, resulting in approximately 109,000 hospitalizations and 900 deaths across the United States.
Including this outbreak, so far this year there have been 12 notable instances of gastrointestinal illness on international cruise ships reported by the CDC. That’s already significantly higher than in previous years, with 2022 seeing four instances and 2021 only one. In 2019, the year before the coronavirus pandemic hit the industry, there were 10, following 11 in both 2018 and 2017.
In other news, there have been ongoing discussions in Geneva, Switzerland, among 194 countries working to draft a comprehensive pandemic agreement. This agreement would grant the World Health Organization (WHO) considerable authority in managing global pandemics.
A preliminary version of the treaty, known as the “zero draft,” was made public earlier this year. The document indicated that the WHO would be granted the power to declare and manage global pandemic emergencies. The authority would encompass control over treatments, government regulations such as lockdowns and vaccine mandates, global supply chains, and monitoring and surveillance of populations.
While negotiations continue, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB), a group created by the WHO and the World Bank, is calling for a global pandemic simulation exercise. The GPMB believes that it is essential to test the draft pandemic accord and international health regulation amendments through a simulation before they are finalized and adopted.
This call by the GPMB is notable, as this group had previously released a report in September 2019 predicting a respiratory pandemic with potential global consequences. This prediction was followed by the outbreak of COVID-19 a few months later.
The ongoing negotiations regarding the pandemic treaty are expected to remain behind closed doors. In April 2023, it was reported that delegates from the United States agreed with a Chinese proposal that drafts of new international health regulations would not be shared with the public.