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More people sick on Disney ship

Company has hired former CDC vessel sanitation chief

Disney says a crew of more than 200 disinfected its cruise ship Magic before passengers embarked.
Disney says a crew of more than 200 disinfected its cruise ship Magic before passengers embarked.

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CNN's Susan Candiotti reports on new illnesses on a Disney cruise ship (November 27)
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MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Disney Cruise Lines said Tuesday at least 85 people reported flu-like symptoms four days into a seven-day cruise to the western Caribbean aboard the cruise ship Magic.

It was on the same ship last week that 275 passengers and crew members became sick.

Disney spokesman Mark Jaronski said the company had hired Don Turner, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vessel sanitation program, who was scheduled to join the ship Tuesday in the Cayman Islands.

"He's there because of his years of expertise in overseeing cleanups," Jaronski said, "and he can work with our experts aboard the ship to ... make sure everything is safe and to get this thing under control."

The Disney spokesman described the sickness as being similar to flu and said the symptoms were mostly vomiting and diarrhea.

"The CDC tells us it appears to be spread by person-to-person contact," Jaronski said.

But the cruise line said the CDC had not excluded other possible sources, including food or water contamination. Disney also dispatched two Walt Disney World microbiologists to help oversee steps to sanitize the ship.

Jaronski said none of the ill passengers has left the ship for treatment.

He said no decision has been made on whether to take the ship out of service when it returns to Port Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday. "We'll assess that situation depending on how many more people might become sick," he said.

"The CDC told us more people might become ill, but the numbers currently seem to be within the curve they're watching," Jaronski added.

Other incidents

Disney is not the only cruise line to be struck by waves of sick passengers.

During four recent Caribbean cruises aboard the Amsterdam in October and November, more than 500 passengers and crew members became ill from the Norwalk virus. Many of those people have filed a class action lawsuit against Holland America Cruise Lines. (Full story)

After last week's infected voyage on the Magic, a team of more than 200 workers scrubbed down the Disney ship with disinfectant before this week's passengers embarked, a spokeswoman said.

Disney has offered those who were ill and their companions on that cruise a free, three-day cruise in the future or 50 percent off the cost of a future seven-day cruise.

For those on the current cruise, all were offered a refund or the option of rescheduling another vacation prior to leaving port. Four percent of the passengers took advantage of the offer. Around 2,400 guests decided to go.

Jaronski said 25 people were sick as of Monday, but the number of passengers taken ill had more than doubled by Tuesday.

Disney characters aboard the family cruise are taking steps to avoid the level of contact they'd normally have with passengers, he said. And they're cleaning their hands -- and in some cases their costumes -- more often, according to Jaronski.

"They're still hugging children," he said. "The characters are using their own pens to sign autographs instead of the children's."

Disney said typically five to 10 people fall ill on a seven-day cruise with 2,400 people aboard.

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