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Dozens of Cruise Passengers Sick with Norovirus Arrive at Houston Airport

Posted in Norovirus,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on June 4, 2024

The Houston Fire Department was called to Terminal C to greet dozens of cruise passengers sick with norovirus as they arrived at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport with flu-like symptoms.

Cruise Passengers Sick with Norovirus

Cruise goers and flight travelers returned to Houston, Texas with more than the typical key chain, shot glass, or magnet souvenirs. Some walk away from the trip with flu-like symptoms and gastrointestinal illness. Others with a crazy story of their inflight experience.

According to reports, a travel group that disembarked on a cruise in the Pacific Northwest arrived at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport complaining of flu-like symptoms while on the plane on the evening of Friday, May 31, 2024.

United Airlines Flight 1528 picked up passengers at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and arrived in Houston at Terminal C.

While the specific cruise ship the passengers came from has not been confirmed, according to Cruise Hive, there was only one vessel docked in Vancouver on Friday – Royal Caribbean International’s Radiance of the Seas. According to the source, this vessel experienced a norovirus outbreak in April.

The Houston Fire Department First Responders Were Called to the Scene

The Houston Fire Department was called to the location at 6:20 pm to respond to reports of passengers with flu-like symptoms and nausea.

First responders evaluated three patients. None required hospital transport.

The travel group arriving in Houston consisted of 75 people. Of which, 30 appeared to be affected by the illness.

According to United, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane was transporting 163 passengers and had six crew members on board.

Plane Deep Cleaned After Cruise Passengers Sick with Norovirus Arrived in Houston

According to United Airlines, the aircraft was removed from service for a deep cleaning before it was placed back into service.

Second Airline Case of Widespread Illness Within a Month

This incident of cruise passengers sick with norovirus on a plane is the second airline case of widespread illness within a month.

A Condor flight from Mauritius headed to Frankfurt, Germany also experienced gastrointestinal illness. Of the 290 passengers on the plane, 70 suffered nausea and vomiting. This airline indicated they were adjusting their cleaning processes as a result.

Most Famous Airline Vomiting Incident Occurred on a Japan Air Lines Flight in 1975

While 70, or even 30 people on a plane sick with vomiting and other gastrointestinal or flu-like symptoms is certainly unnerving for fellow passengers, it isn’t the largest event in history.

The title for the most famous airline vomiting incident is still held by a 1975 Japan Air Lines flight. In this case, 197 people fell ill on the plane. Of whom, 144 were so sick, they were taken to the hospital.

This incident did not involve cruise passengers sick with norovirus though. In this case, in-flight meals were to blame. It was later discovered that some of the prepared meals were contaminated with Staphylococcus bacteria, which lead to food poisoning.

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Most of the time it is referred to as “stomach flu” or the “stomach bug.” However, it is not related to the influenza virus in any way.

How Do You Get Norovirus

People become sick with norovirus by accidentally coming into contact with the virus in trace amounts of fecal matter. It does not take very much fecal matter to contain an infectious dose.

You can get norovirus by simply touching something (like a banister or table) that was touched by someone with norovirus who didn’t properly wash their hands after using the bathroom. If you encounter even a microscopic amount of it and touch your mouth or eat before washing your hands, you can get sick.

If I’ve Had Norovirus Before, Am I Immune?

Unfortunately, even if you have had norovirus before, you are most likely not immune to it. As with many viruses, there are many different types of noroviruses due to the mutability of viral genetic material. Infection with one type of norovirus will likely not protect you against becoming sick with other types.

Norovirus Symptoms

Norovirus usually presents with gastrointestinal symptoms.

Common norovirus symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches

Most people develop symptoms around 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Symptoms usually resolve within 1 to 3 days. However, the virus can still spread for another few days once the person feels better.

Dehydration is a serious complication of norovirus, because sometimes more fluid leaves the body than the person can take in.

Symptoms of dehydration may include:

  • Decreased urination
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Feeling dizzy when standing up
  • Crying with few or no tears
  • Unusual sleepiness or fussiness

Who is at Greater Risk of Infection or Complications

Anyone can become infected and get sick with norovirus if exposed. However, children younger than 5 years old, older adults, and those with a weakened immune system are more likely to develop more serious illness.

How is Norovirus Treated?

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for norovirus infection. Antibiotics are designed to treat bacterial infections and do nothing to combat viral infections. Treating symptoms and staying hydrated are your best options.

What Should I Do If I Was Exposed to the Cruise Passengers Sick with Norovirus and Become Sick?

If you were exposed to the cruise passengers sick with norovirus, there are a few things you can do. Norovirus is a highly contagious illness, so if you used the restroom on the plane or were seated near someone sick with the virus, you may have been exposed.

Monitor symptoms

First, monitor for symptoms of norovirus infection over the following two days. If you become sick with norovirus, you may begin to experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Then, if you become sick with norovirus, be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is a serious complication that can affect your whole body. Drink sports drinks and other fluids. Drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration. However, oral rehydration fluids with electrolytes, nutrients, and minerals will be more beneficial.

Seek Medical Care for Severe Dehydration

If you become severely dehydrated, medical care may be necessary. Intravenous (or IV) fluids may be necessary to rehydrate a person.“if you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, call your doctor,” explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Do Not Prepare Food or Drink for Others and Wash Your Hands

If you have become sick with norovirus after this exposure, you can easily spread it to others. Finally, wait three days after symptoms have passed before preparing food or drinks for others. Help prevent the spread of illness by washing your hands after using the bathroom, helping others with the bathroom, or changing diapers. Frequent hand washing can help reduce the spread of norovirus.

Get Legal Advice

If you become seriously ill from exposure to cruise passengers sick with norovirus, you may need legal advice. Missed work, medical bills, and other expenses can add up. Becoming sick with a preventable illness due to no fault of your own can be stressful.

The Lange Law Firm, PLLC Can Help

The experienced norovirus lawyers at The Lange Law Firm, PLLC can go over the details of your situation to determine if you have a legal case. Call (833) 330-3663 or click here to email for a free consultation.

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)