KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — U.S. health officials on Sunday boarded a cruise ship docked in the U.S. Virgin Islands to investigate an illness outbreak that has stricken at least 300 people with gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that 281, or nearly 10 percent, of the 3,050 passengers aboard Royal Caribbean International's Explorer of the Seas have reported getting sick during a Caribbean cruise that left Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Tuesday. Twenty-two crew members also reported feeling ill.
Janet Diaz, spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said CDC representatives boarded the towering, 15-deck ship as it made a port call in St. Thomas, the main island of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
At least two CDC officials, an epidemiologist and an environmental health officer, were expected to do the investigation and evaluate the outbreak response on the cruise liner. The U.S. health agency had not responded Sunday to an email and a call seeking comment about the work aboard the ship.
During the previous port call in Puerto Rico, the ship underwent "extensive and thorough sanitizing" to help prevent more people from getting sick, the company spokeswoman said. The ship bypassed a scheduled stop at the company's fenced-in beach destination in northern Haiti to sail directly to Puerto Rico's capital.
"This was a difficult decision to make; however, we feel it is best to make this itinerary modification to help prevent any more guests from becoming ill," Diaz said.