Say No To Norovirus
A January 2019 cruise had to end early because almost 500 people on board took ill. Tests are still underway, but the suspected cause is Norovirus – the gastrointestinal virus dreaded by cruise companies and their passengers around the world.
It’s unusual to see such a large outbreak, but the virus is contracted by tens of thousands of cruise passengers each year – making around 5 days of their cruise very unpleasant.
In the United States of America, Norovirus and any other viral or disease related incidents on a cruise ship inbound to a US port, are a notifiable legal requirement. However, the same does not apply outside the USA – this is why so many of the global total number of cases go unreported.
As a specialist cruise insurer, Gastroenteritis is a very frequent reason we see for people who need to claim on their travel insurance policies - and the usual claim value is between £3,000-£10,000. For some travellers, it’s more than the cost of their cruise. It’s certainly more than they were bargaining for.
If this happens to you, rest assured that your OneStop4 policy can help you straight away. The important thing to do is to ensure the cruise ship’s medical director speaks to or emails our Medical Assistance team (their contact details in your Policy Wording) to obtain what is called a Guarantee of Payment – this means that the insurer will settle with the ship directly for your care. This takes the financial pressure off you to make the payment before being treated, and then having to claim back the huge costs you have incurred once you are home. Having this sort of sum charged to your credit-card can really consume your credit balance available and spoil a holiday.
Unfortunately Norovirus is not the only frequent unwanted health visitor - respiratory infections also are highly prevalent. The following tips will also help with protection for this problem.
Prevention is better than cure
Norovirus spreads quickly – that’s why initial reports of this recent Royal Caribbean ship outbreak were of 277 passengers being ill, but just two days later that count had jumped to 500. No reports have said how many crew were affected – but it is usually a similar number.
We often talk about the importance of using hand sanitiser when you’re on a cruise, but while it’s an essential precaution to take, sanitising gel won’t protect you from Norovirus on its own.
The Telegraph published some great pointers for when you’re on board:
· Wash your hands regularly – not only after using the bathroom, but when you come in from the casino or pool deck, before meals, and when you’re back on board after a shore excursion. It’s not a 100% guarantee, but it certainly gives you a better chance of avoiding a virus.
· Use the bathroom in your cabin wherever possible. If you do use the public facilities, open doors with the tissues provided.
· The Telegraph advises readers to avoid touching bannisters (“keep a tissue handy to use if it’s a bit rocky”) but we say safety comes first! Hold on to those bannisters to avoid trips and falls, but then wash your hands and use hand sanitiser before you eat anything, and wash your hands as soon as you’re back in your cabin.
· Use a knuckle to call lifts rather than touching the buttons with your fingers.
· Don’t think hand sanitisers are an alternative to soap and water. They are an added precaution but they don’t fight the noro bug, according to the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC).
· Don’t shake hands with anyone, not even the captain. On Azamara Cruise Club the officers “fist-bump” passengers. Frankly, a friendly hello is far better and a lot safer.
· Another one we’d add: avoid eating peanuts or other snacks standing out on bar counters. While buffets follow strict hygiene rules, these snacks often aren’t monitored as strictly!
What if you do feel ill?
It’s absolutely essential to get medical assistance right away. Don’t wait, as it can be dangerous to your health and you can spread Norovirus to other passengers.
Passengers who come down with Norovirus are always asked to remain in their cabins to contain the virus as much as possible. It’s also unlikely you’ll want to go anywhere, to be honest. Norovirus usually results in missing at least a day or two of your cruise experience. Onestop4 Cruise Insurance includes Cabin Confinement benefits, so anything you miss by being stuck in your cabin is catered for by the £100 a day benefit that you would be entitled to claim.
With the large outbreak you may have seen news reports that passengers have been promised a refund, but please remember this is usually not the case! In fact, many people who contract Norovirus on a cruise end up with additional costs for doctors and medication.
This is where your cruise insurance is so vital, as it needs to cover your medical care on board. Don’t put yourself at risk by avoiding seeking medical help in an effort to save money, as waiting for symptoms to become worse can lead to all sorts of complications – and much higher medical bills.
Before you depart, make sure all information on your cruise insurance policy is up to date, and update your medical declaration with any new conditions, symptoms, or medication. This is critical information if you contract Norovirus or any other illness or injury, as it will help doctors to give you the correct treatment and medication.
Be prepared to have fun
The good old Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared,” really applies here! Hopefully you’ll stay Norovirus-free throughout your cruise, but to do that you must remember those hygiene tips and be ready with appropriate financial protection in case anything does happen.
If you do fall ill, treating the virus early and following medical advice is your best bet for a faster recovery.
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