An outbreak of a yet unknown illness causing symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea on Holland America Line’s Veendam cruise ship is the latest being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-VSP) in the month of December.

MS Veendam Image/Djheini at the wikipedia project
MS Veendam
Image/Djheini at the wikipedia project

According to a Vessel Sanitation Program update, 67 passengers and crew were sickened with the illness of unknown etiology. This is more than 3 percent of the over 2,000 people on board the vessel.

In response to the outbreak, Holland America Line and the crew aboard the ship reported the following actions: Increasing cleaning and disinfection procedures according to their outbreak prevention and response plan, Collecting stool specimens from passenger and crew gastrointestinal illness cases for testing and Making twice daily reports of gastrointestinal illness cases to the VSP.

A CDC Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officer boarded the ship in San Diego on Sunday to conduct an environmental health assessment and evaluate the outbreak and response activities. Specimens have been collected and will be sent to CDC for testing.

This cruise ship outbreak follows two others in the month of December.

Last week, norovirus was responsible for an outbreak on Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess that sickened 176 passengers and crew and at the beginning of the month, the CDC VSP investigated a norovirus outbreak on board  Oceania Cruises Oceania Riviera that sickened 86 passengers and crew.

According to the CDC,  Over 90% of diarrheal disease outbreaks on cruise ships are caused by norovirus. Norovirus can be especially challenging to control on cruises ships because of the close living quarters, shared dining areas, and rapid turnover of passengers. When the ship docks, norovirus can be brought on board in contaminated food or water or by passengers who were infected while ashore. Repeated outbreaks on consecutive cruises may also result from infected crew or environmental contamination. This is because norovirus can persist on surfaces and is resistant to many common disinfectants.


Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

Follow @bactiman63