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All Clean Hands on Deck!

Inspections reduce diarrhea cases on cruise ships

MONDAY, Dec. 23, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Mandatory sanitation inspections greatly reduce outbreaks of diarrhea on vacation cruise ships, says a study posted online at the American Journal of Preventive Medicine Web site.

The findings are scheduled to appear in the journal's April 2003 print issue.

The study found that diarrhea cases and outbreaks on board cruise ships declined in the 1990s as cruise lines improved their sanitation practices.

From 1990 to 2000, sanitation inspection scores gradually improved from an average of 89 to an average of 93. The best possible score is 100. Over that same period of time, outbreaks of normal diarrheal illness declined 44 per cent. In that same time, the number of outbreak cases (where more than 3 per cent of passengers get sick) declined 27 per cent.

The study found that older cruise ships, smaller-sized ships, and ships that belonged to small cruise fleets were more likely to fail the sanitation inspections than newer ships and ships in larger fleets.

The inspection scores and data about diarrheal disease on cruise ships are kept in a database maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vessel Sanitation Program. All cruise ships carrying 13 or more passengers that arrive from international ports to Canadian or U.S. ports are subject to inspection.

The ships are graded on their overall sanitation based on examinations of their water supplies, food preparations and employee hygiene. The inspection also includes assessment of the ship's equipment maintenance, toilet and hand-washing facilities, waste disposal, and pest and toxic substance control.

About 6.8 million passengers board cruise ships in North American each year, says the Cruise Line International Association. There have been recent well-publicized passenger illness outbreaks on a number of cruise ships, leading to full-ship cleanings to eradicate the cause.

More Information

If you want to check out inspection score for cruise ships, go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vessel Sanitation Program Web site.

SOURCE: Health and Behavior News Service, news release, Dec. 13, 2002
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