Asked by Tom, Greensboro, Georgia
Recently, more than 70 people from the same retirement neighborhood went on a five-day cruise. By the end of the cruise and right afterward, at least half of the people had colds and respiratory problems, with one person needing to be hospitalized with pneumonia. Could this illness be from the air conditioning or close quarters? What is the best way to notify the authorities to prevent others from contracting this illness?
Living Well Expert
Dr. Jennifer Shu
Children's Medical Group
Thanks for your question, and I hope you had a wonderful cruise before all the respiratory symptoms came up. It is very common for colds and other illnesses to get passed around in any crowded situation, especially when access to sinks and hand hygiene may not be ideal.
Respiratory viruses can be transmitted through direct contact with germs on another person's hands or from droplets spread by coughs and sneezes within about six feet away. Complications such as pneumonia can follow infections with respiratory viruses, particularly in people with weakened immune systems.
There have been reports of illness from Legionella bacteria found in whirlpool spas and the drinking water supply on cruise ships, influenza virus passing between passengers, and norovirus intestinal infections spreading through poor food-handling techniques.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks these types of infections, which may be more serious and can possibly be prevented. The agency may be contacted at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)/TTY: (888) 232-6348 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The CDC Vessel Sanitation Program also maintains a database of cruise ship inspection scores.
While it may be too late now to do anything about your particular cruise, travelers or their doctors (or the cruise ship's doctor, if he or she noticed an outbreak pattern during the trip) may also report infection outbreaks to a local or state health department for further investigation if indicated.
CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. You are solely responsible for your own comments, the consequences of posting those comments, and the consequences of any reliance by you on the comments of others. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.
The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.