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Euro Surveill. 2017 Nov;22(45). doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2017.22.45.16-00576.

Gastroenteritis outbreaks on cruise ships: contributing factors and thresholds for early outbreak detection.

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Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Thessaly, Larissa, Greece.
Celestyal Cruises, Piraeus, Greece.
Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany.
The members of the group are listed at the end of the article.


When an increased number of acute gastroenteritis (AG) cases is detected among tourists staying at the same accommodation, outbreak management plans must be activated in a timely manner to prevent large outbreaks. Syndromic surveillance data collected between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2013 by five seagoing cruise ships were analysed to identify attack rate thresholds for early outbreak detection. The overall incidence rate of AG was 2.81 cases per 10,000 traveller-days (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.00-17.60), while the attack rate was 19.37 cases per 10,000 travellers (95% CI: 0.00-127.69). The probability of an outbreak occurring was 11% if 4 per 1,000 passengers reported symptoms within the first 2 days of the voyage, and this increased to 23 % if 5 per 1,000 passengers reported such within the first 3 days. The risk ratio (RR) for outbreak occurrence was 2.35, 5.66 and 8.63 for 1, 2 and 3 days' delay of symptoms reporting respectively, suggesting a dose-response relationship. Shipping companies' policies and health authorities' efforts may consider these thresholds for initiating outbreak response measures based on the number of cases according to day of cruise. Efforts should focus on ensuring travellers report symptoms immediately and comply with isolation measures.


cruise; gastroenteritis; health; maritime; norovirus; ship; threshold; travel

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