Wednesday, March 29, 2017


I received sad news this morning. An elderly friend of mine had died. She became ill while on a cruise. The official cause will probably be listed as “congestive heart failure” or something similar. But although that explanation will be much more acceptable to the cruise line, it is not the whole story.

First, a bit of background. My friend is (I typed “is” as I am still having trouble using the past tense..)..was in her 80’s. Like many people of that age, she had a few chronic conditions, one being arthritis, and another, a “weak” heart. But she had never had a heart attack and her doctor in the UK considered her well enough to go on the cruise with her caregiver.

I was told that she really enjoyed the trip up until day 22 of this 44 day cruise. At that point there was an outbreak of food poisoning on the ship. She became very ill, dehydrated, and had to be sent to a hospital in Jamaica, which was the closest port. Several of the passengers ended up there, especially those who were over 60. At least one died soon after she was hospitalized in Jamaica.

Along with a few of the others, my friend was confined to the intensive care unit. After a few days she seemed to be better, but because she was still weak and considered at risk, she was sent to a hospital in Florida, and then to one in England, where she now lived. She died there.

If you have been following this blog, you will know that food poisoning outbreaks on cruise ships are common, with the majority of them caused by norovirus – a highly contagious group of viruses which often infects both passengers and crew. Usually an outbreak starts through contaminated food (perhaps contaminated by a crew member), but you can also catch it directly from someone who is ill (by taking care of them, using the same eating utensils or even from sprayed vomit), and, from surfaces.

Most people recover after 1-3 thoroughly miserable days. However, passengers who are older frequently develop severe dehydration which can aggravate or lead to other serious conditions as seemed to have occurred in my friend’s case. It is not unusual for relapses to happen a couple of weeks or so after the food poisoning incident itself, even after the patient seems to have recovered and has been released from hospital.

The Safe Food Handbook (available on Amazon) discusses how you can protect yourself, as do other posts on this blog. Be careful if you are going on a cruise!


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