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Virus strikes cruise ship

Nearly 250 sickened by Norwalk-like virus


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(CNN) -- Nearly 250 people on a seven-day Caribbean cruise were sickened by a Norwalk-like stomach virus, which officials believe was brought on board by a passenger previously exposed to it, the cruise line said Friday.

The Mariner of the Seas is set to dock in Port Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday, Royal Caribbean spokesman Michael Sheehan said in a statement.

The ship has been sailing in the Western Caribbean with 3,465 guests and 1,190 crew members. Of those, 229 guests and 18 crew members were believed to have been affected by the virus.

Those who became ill were treated and "responded well" to over-the-counter medication, the company said.

The virus was traced to a guest who had symptoms for two days prior to the cruise's departure.

Royal Caribbean has sent three additional doctors and a nurse to assist the ship's medical team and have implemented a program of heightened sanitation procedures for crew members.

Symptoms of a norovirus, or Norwalk-like virus, include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control Web site.

A low-grade fever can also be present along with chills, headache, body aches and fatigue. The illness is usually short-lived, lasting from one to two days.

Noroviruses, which affect some 23 million people a year, have been blamed for a rash of illnesses on cruise ships in recent years.

It was first identified in 1972 after an outbreak in Norwalk, Ohio.


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