Over the last two years, COVID-19 has been the leading concern for cruising. That’s obviously for good reason, but it’s important to remember if you choose to cruise, there are other illnesses to catch that are quite common onboard.
The fact is that, even before COVID, people got sick on cruise ships from time to time. One of the most common illnesses that spread on cruise ships is norovirus. This gastrointestinal bug can make people very ill and lead to serious complications, as well.
If you like to cruise, then it’s vital to understand what your rights are on board, especially if you get sick while on the cruise ship. Here’s what you need to know about norovirus and what you can do if you catch it while on a cruise ship.
What Is Norovirus?
Norovirus, previously called Norwalk Virus, was identified after the outbreak of a gastrointestinal infection in Norwalk, Ohio in the 1970s. As a virus, it’s a small organism that can easily invade cells and replicate, making the host sick.
Once Norovirus has invaded your body and begins to replicate, you develop a condition called gastroenteritis, which is a symptom for many different types of viruses.
The symptoms of this include:
- Abdominal pain
Norovirus tends to be lumped with a myriad of other illnesses that cause stomach issues. They are generally labeled as “stomach flu,” but they are not all the same. Norovirus infections can cause symptoms one to two days after exposure, and those symptoms can last up to three days.
In some cases, people with norovirus experience severe symptoms that make it impossible to stay properly hydrated. In these cases, hospitalization may be warranted. Those most susceptible to severe symptoms include young children and the elderly.
Some of the other serious complications that can arise from a norovirus infection include:
- Seizure – If your electrolytes are unbalanced due to fluid loss, then the electrical messages in your body can be disrupted and lead to serious symptoms such as seizures.
- Brain swelling – If you’re dehydrated, then your body can try to pull too much water to the internal organs like the brain, leading to swelling that can impact function.
- Kidney failure – This is a life-threatening issue that can happen when the kidneys can’t remove waste and fluids from your blood.
- Death – In rare cases, when not treated appropriately and fast, severe dehydration caused by norovirus can be fatal.
How You Can Get Norovirus on a Cruise Ship
Norovirus can, unfortunately, flourish in a lot of places. It is often transmitted from one person to another through unwashed hands or vomiting. In many instances, people get norovirus through swallowing food or water that has been contaminated by someone who is infected.
This is why cruise ships can easily spread norovirus, because of the high-touch surfaces that are on board. Think about the restaurants where so many people dine in close quarters. These are more likely to introduce food or drink that has been infected.
What Can You Do If You Get Norovirus on a Cruise?
For most cruise companies, you agree to a contract of carriage when buying your tickets. These contracts are generally the same in terms, especially as they relate to your rights as a passenger. You can find your specific contract by looking up your cruising agreement or ticket contract with your cruise line.
As a passenger, especially a sick one, you have rights. However, in the most general of terms, you have likely waived your right to sue a cruise line under the contract, except in cases where the company running the cruise acted negligently – and you were injured due to that negligence.
Essentially, if you seek to bring a lawsuit against a cruise line, because you got ill, then you must prove that the cruise line was negligent in some way that led to your illness. In other words, they didn’t take steps that they should have taken, and those steps resulted in your illness.
If the outbreak of Norovirus occurred through no negligence on behalf of the cruise line, then you cannot seek damages. However, if it can be proven that the company was aware of the problem and didn’t take appropriate steps to respond, then you may have a case.
If you do bring a lawsuit, you are only entitled to damages that you sustained from the illness. This covers expenses such as medical bills and medications, but that may be about it. If you can make a case based on emotional distress, you may be entitled to more.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2021 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2021, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019-2021.