Cruise ship sick toll nears 700 on return to US - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Cruise ship sick toll nears 700 on return to US

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A cruise ship on which nearly 700 passengers and crew fell ill has arrived Wednesday at its home port in New Jersey after a Caribbean voyage was cut short by an outbreak whose cause has not yet been determined.

Kim Waite, 50, of England, was on the cruise to celebrate the end of her cancer treatments. She got severely ill.

"There were just hundreds of people being sick everywhere," she said. "They were throwing up in buckets and bags -- I started crying, I couldn't believe it. I was in shock."

"I've never wanted to go home so much in my life," she said. "I've never slept so much in my life, and I've got no sun tan."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said its latest count puts the number of those sickened at 630 passengers and 54 crew members. The Explorers of the Sea ship was carrying 3,050 passengers.

Health investigators suspect norovirus, but lab results are not expected until later this week.

If norovirus is to blame, it would be one of the largest outbreaks in last 20 years, the CDC said. A 2006 norovirus outbreak on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship also sickened close to 700.

Norovirus -- once known as Norwalk virus -- is highly contagious. It can be picked up from an infected person, contaminated food or water or by touching contaminated surfaces. Sometimes mistaken for the stomach flu, the virus causes bouts of vomiting and diarrhea for a few days.

Bill Rakowicz of Canada said he suffered from vomiting, pain and diarrhea and that his experience was simply "awful."

The CDC said it recommended to cruise operator Royal Caribbean that people who still have symptoms be housed in nearby hotels or seen at medical facilities before traveling home.

CDC investigators boarded the ship during its U.S. Virgin Islands Port call on Sunday. They said no single food or water source or other origin has been identified.

Explorer of the Seas is on track to depart at its originally scheduled time Friday afternoon on its next cruise, a 9-night trip with port calls in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said.


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