Saint John cruise season launches with ship of sick passengers, crew

Saint John's cruise ship season will see a rocky start on Monday, when the first ship arrives with sick passengers and crew members on board.

Balmoral, set to arrive Monday morning, carrying 900 guests, has 'elevated gastrointestinal illness rates'

Saint John's cruise ship season will see a rocky start on Monday, when the first ship arrives with sick passengers and crew members on board.

The Balmoral is scheduled to arrive in Saint John on Monday, carrying about 900 guests. (Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines)
The Public Health Agency of Canada is monitoring "elevated gastrointestinal illness rates" aboard the Balmoral, Port Saint John said in a statement on Friday.

No numbers were provided, but the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines ship is carrying approximately 900 guests. It is scheduled to arrive at the Diamond Jubilee cruise terminal in the city's uptown at 10:30 a.m., and depart at 11 p.m.

The health agency "is working in collaboration with the cruise ship operator to investigate the nature of the illness reported and mitigate the risk to other passengers or crew by ensuring that the vessel has implemented their outbreak prevention procedures," the statement said.

Protocols to 'mitigate risk'

"While it is unfortunate that the passengers and crew are experiencing this illness, health officials are monitoring the situation aboard Balmoral and will ensure appropriate protocols are in place to mitigate risk on board the vessel and on shore," said Andrew Dixon, senior vice-president of trade and business development for the port.

Gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships are "a routine occurrence and there is low public health risk," according to the statement. Among the general public, Norovirus is second only to the common cold in rates of prevalence, it states.

Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily through direct contact with an infected person, by touching contaminated surfaces or objects, or by consuming contaminated food or water, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada's website.

The viruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people.

Symptoms can develop within 12 hours of exposure and commonly include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. A low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue may also occur.

People normally recover within one or two days, but can remain contagious for up to two weeks, according to the health agency. Good hygiene practices, including frequent handwashing, is advised.

Saint John is expected to welcome 63 ships carrying more than 143,000 guests during the 2016 season.

This is the 28th cruise season in the city.