Outbreaks from foodborne pathogens on cruise ships in the past couple of years provided high-profile headlines, but federal statistics suggest the risk factor for passengers is relatively low.
Between 2008 and 2014, about 74 million passengers sailed on cruise ships in U.S. jurisdictions. During that time, 129,678 passengers had illnesses meeting the definition of “acute gastroenteritis,” according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About one in 10 of those illnesses was confirmed as being part of a norovirus outbreak.
The rate of acute gastroenteritis on cruise ships decreased from 2008 to 2014, dropping from 27.2 cases per 100,000 travel days in 2008 to 22.3 in 2014, the CDC reports. The rate among crew members essentially did not change during that time.
Public health officials advise cruise ship travelers to practice good hand hygiene, especially after using the toilet and before touching the face or eating, to minimize the risk of infection.