Santa Barbara County's Public Health director boarded a cruise ship ported off of Santa Barbara on Wednesday morning to inspect the conditions after 66 passengers and 17 crew members were identified as possibly being part of a norovirus outbreak on board.
The ship, the Crown Princess, is sailing on a seven-day California coast cruise round-trip from Los Angeles that departed April 5, said Karen Candy, a spokeswoman for the Princess Cruise Line.
"Onboard the current sailing of Crown Princess, there has been an increase in the number of cases of gastrointestinal illness among passengers," she said. "We believe the cause to be the common virus called norovirus, which is extremely contagious and easily transmitted from person to person."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines, leading to pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
People aboard the ship who are ill have been isolated in their cabins until they are not contagious, Candy said.
She also said the cruise ship has taken measures to stop the spread of the illness, including thorough disinfection of high-touch surfaces such as railings, door handles and elevator buttons; encouraging passengers to use correct hand-washing procedures and enhancing this with the use of hand sanitizing gels placed throughout the ship as well as other measures.
Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Dr. Takashi Wada boarded the ship early Wednesday morning, and a statement from the department said Wada "found all proper steps were being taken to support the health and safety of passengers and the public in Santa Barbara."
The Public Health Department was contacted regarding a number of cases of gastrointestinal illness among passengers, and Wada spoke with the Centers for Disease Control, the public health manager for Princess Cruises and the harbor operations manager for the City of Santa Barbara to assess the situation, the statement said.
Wada also spoke with the medical officer on the ship, and supported the decision to allow healthy passengers to disembark in Santa Barbara.