By Stacey Leasca
January 30, 2020
Coastguard members walk past the Costa Smeralda cruise ship docked in the Civitavecchia port 70km north of Rome on January 30, 2020, as more than 6,000 tourists are under lockdown aboard the cruise ship after two Chinese passengers were isolated over fears they could be carrying the coronavirus. - Samples from the two passengers were sent for testing after three doctors and a nurse boarded the Costa Crociere ship in the port of Civitavecchia to tend to a woman running a fever, the local health authorities said.
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/Getty Images

On Thursday, some 6,000 cruise passengers found themselves unable to disembark their vessel in Italy over fears that two passengers may have contracted and potentially spread the coronavirus.

CNBC reported, the cruise ship, operated by the Italian firm Costa Crociere S.p.A, a subsidiary of Carnival, enacted “sanitary protocol” when the ship reached the Italian port of Civitavecchia after medics were alerted to a 54-year-old Chinese woman experiencing flu-like symptoms that also closely mirror the symptoms of the coronavirus. The woman and her husband, CNBC reported, are both from the autonomous region of Macau, which currently has seven confirmed cases of the virus, accodring to a local outlet.

The suspected case led the entire ship had to be quarantined until passengers were assessed.

“As soon as the suspected case was detected, the medical team on board immediately activated all the relevant health procedures to promptly isolate and manage the clinical condition,” a spokesperson for the company told CNBC. “The health authority has been immediately notified and is now on board to conduct all the pertinent measures.”

Local officials noted their own concerns about letting the couple and other passengers off the ship who may have been exposed before they are given the all-clear.

“The situation of a suspected case of coronavirus at the port of Civitavecchia is under close control,” Ernesto Tedesco, the mayor of Civitavecchia, said in a statement.

A medical expert from a Rome hospital examined the patient just after docking, Bloomberg reported. The expert said the person demonstrated fever and respiratory symptoms. No word yet on when the ship’s itinerary may resume, if at all. A spokesperson for the Italian Coast Guard told Bloomberg, further operations on the ship “will be decided later.”

Despite the news, the industry still wants people to know that traveling by sea is abundantly safe.

According to a study by GP Wild, which was commissioned by the cruise industry’s trade group, cruise ship capacity grew by more than 55 percent from 2009 to 2018. During that same period, the number of operational incidents dropped by 37 percent.

And, as The Washington Post noted, in 2019, the CDC reported just under 1,000 passengers came down with some form of gastrointestinal illness on ships visiting the United States. While troubling, it still marks an extremely small percentage of overall cruise passengers. Cruise Compete predicts your odds of getting sick on a cruise are somewhere around one in 14,000.)

As for how to protect yourself from getting sick while on a cruise, simply take all the precautions you’d take anyway during cold and flu season like washing hands frequently, never sharing utensils or cups, and bring both your own hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to clean surfaces in your cabin.

Lastly, while the sushi or beef carpaccio may look good, try to only consume thoroughly cooked foods on cruise ships as undercooked foods is one of the easiest ways to catch a stomach bug or food poisoning. 

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