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Disney ship docks with 195 ill

Next week's cruise canceled to sanitize vessel

Passengers of Disney's cruise ship Magic arrive Saturday in Port Canaveral, Florida.
Passengers of Disney's cruise ship Magic arrive Saturday in Port Canaveral, Florida.

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CNN's Susan Candiotti reports Disney announced it will cancel the next tour of the cruise ship Magic after confirming it is sailing with the Norwalk virus.
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PORT CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) -- Sunny skies greeted the Disney cruise ship Magic as it docked here early Saturday, carrying 195 sick passengers and crew members.

The vessel had completed a cruise of the western Caribbean, during which 172 passengers and 23 crew members came down with what is believed to be Norwalk virus.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesman Owen Grant said the agency would decide by Monday whether stool samples collected from those complaining of gastrointestinal illness would be tested. If the culprit is confirmed to be Norwalk, it would be the second such outbreak on the cruise ship in as many weeks.

Magic carried 2,485 passengers and 1,003 crew members on the voyage. More than 300 people aboard the Magic fell ill last week with Norwalk virus. It can be transmitted person-to-person or by consuming contaminated food or water.

CDC specialists made it clear last week how they think the virus is spreading. "We strongly feel this is predominantly person-to-person, spread through hand-to-mouth activity, and all this makes it a little more difficult to control," said Dave Forney, chief of CDC's vessel sanitation program.

Grant said Disney Cruise Line "has met all the requirements based on the guidelines of our sanitation branch."

Disney cruises spokesman Mark Jaronski said the ship will stay in the Port Canaveral area for the next week, and will undergo extensive deep cleaning and sanitizing by more than 1,000 workers.

'Break the cycle' of illness

Two consecutive cruise weeks aboard Disney's ship Magic have ended with illness.
Two consecutive cruise weeks aboard Disney's ship Magic have ended with illness.

"The primary objective for the week," Jaronski said, "is to break the cycle by keeping passengers off the ship."

That could be a key factor as another cruise line, Holland America, prepares to return the Amsterdam to service for its first cruise since spending the past week undergoing a similar disinfection and sanitizing process. More than 500 people fell victim to Norwalk virus on its most recent cruise. The CDC reports no illness among the crew staying aboard Amsterdam this past week.

The CDC is considering sending vessel sanitation experts to the Magic during the week to check on the sanitizing and to ensure that CDC protocols are being followed, according to Grant.

Jaronski said "every inch" of Magic would be dry or steam cleaned in the next week, and mattresses and pillows would be replaced. He said items such as linens and curtains would be commercially cleaned at more than 160 degrees.

Magic was inspected by the CDC on June 15 and scored a 99 out of a possible 100 rating. Forney of the CDC said inspectors have scrutinized food-handling operations of both the Disney and the Holland America vessels and found no deficiencies on either line.

That, combined with the low ratio of crew illness to passenger illness, has led experts to conclude that the virus is being transmitted passenger-to-passenger.

The CDC stated this week that Norwalk virus is a very common cause of nonbacterial gastroenteritis in the United States. Significant outbreaks have also been reported on ships in Europe and South America.

People can take precautions to prevent the stomach bug, primarily by washing their hands often and minimizing hand-to-mouth contact. CDC officials say they see no reason for people to delay booking a cruise because of the outbreaks.

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