Norovirus possible in shipboard illness

01:43, Jan 31 2009

A possible norovirus outbreak aboard the cruise liner Volendam stopped visitors going aboard the ship in Picton this morning.

However, passengers were still leaving the vessel to visit Picton and Blenheim.

Mckay Shipping agent Douglas Colaco said a "code red" had been declared on Volendam after some passengers came down with an illness

He was unsure if it was the norovirus form of gastroenteritis and how many passengers were involved. Anyone infected would be confined to their cabins and monitored, he said.

"As far as I know there are only two or three on board affected, and things are under control," he said. Samples have been taken from passengers but results have not come back.

The cruise liner was to host a fundraising luncheon for the Marlborough Community Hospice today but it has been postponed.


Pamela Young, of Ian Welsh House of Travel, said she understood the outbreak was contained but for reasons of health and safety the shipping company decided to postpone the luncheon.

"They've been fabulous and very professional about the whole thing," she said.

The Volendam, that carries up to 1800 passengers, is the first cruise ship to visit Picton this season and will visit nine more times before March 11.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board communications advisor Katherine Rock said the Public Health Service was satisfied the shipping company associated with Volendam had taken precautionary measures to stop the spread of gastroenteritis on board the ship.

She said the Nelson Marlborough medical officer of health Jill Sherwood said at this stage the illness on board was not an issue for the community of Picton.

Any acute gastroenteritis in two or more people linked by a common exposure was notifiable as an outbreak, Dr Sherwood said.

The infection was first notified at the Port of Tauranga and Public Health Tauranga had taken samples from passengers involved.

Ms Rock said one of the things that would be tested for was norovirus.

Dr Sherwood said on-board visits to the ship had been cancelled to minimise the risk of infection and people who were ill or had contact with people who were ill were isolated on board the ship.

"These infection control measures along with the company's advice to tour operators in Picton have satisfied the Public Health Service that all precautions have been taken to minimise the risk to the community, " she said.


The Marlborough Express