Gastrointestinal illness cases on cruise ships

291 Cruise ship outbreak of gastrointestinal (GI) illness cases were reported since 1994. In 29 cases specimens were not obtained, thus further investigation was not carried out. When identified Norovirus was far the most common causative agent (195 cases, 67 %), fall behind Enterotoxigenic E. coli (12 cases, 4,12 %).

Cruise ships participating in the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) are required to report the total number of gastrointestinal (GI) illness cases–including zero–evaluated by the medical staff before the ship arrives at a U.S. port, when sailing from a foreign port.

A separate notification is required when the GI illness count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. Data from Table 1. were obtained from these surveillance reports and from CDC-led investigations. The GI illness cases reported are totals for the entire voyage and do not represent the number of active (symptomatic) GI cases at any given port of call or at disembarkation.


Cruise ship outbreak updates are posted when they meet the following criteria:

  • fall within the purview of VSP,
  • are sailing on voyages from 3-21 days,
  • are carrying 100 or more passengers,
  • are cruise ships in which 3% or more of passengers or crew reported symptoms of diarrheal disease to the ships medical staff during the voyage, and
  • are gastrointestinal illness outbreaks of public health significance.

Cruise ship outbreak of gastrointestinal illness, (1994-2014 Jan.)




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