Norovirus outbreak sickens 277 on Oasis of the Seas

The Oasis of the Seas departed from Port Canaveral Fla. on Jan. 6 and is due to return to port on Jan. 13

Torres says returning a day early gives the cruise line "more time to completely clean and sanitize the ship" before it sails again.

"In an abundance of caution, we have made the hard decision to return to Port Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday morning, instead of visiting Cozumel, Mexico", Royal Caribbean International states in the letter.

Officials with Royal Caribbean reported that there 167 cases of a stomach virus on board the ship.

"We think the right thing to do is to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health", said Rob Zeiger, chief communications manager for Royal Caribbean.

"We have no reason to believe that any illness will have any impact on the remainder of our sailing", they wrote to passengers, a day before canceling the remainder of the seven-day cruise and announcing they would sail back to Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday morning. It's itinerary showed stops in Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico.

Since 2001, half of all outbreaks were caused by a new strain of the highly contagious norovirus.

"During this sailing, there has been a small percentage of guests onboard who have experienced gastrointestinal illness, thought to be norovirus".

UPDATE: Royal Caribbean has made a decision to cancel the rest of the Oasis of the Seas sailing due to the outbreak. Upon arrival in Jamaica on Wednesday, more than 100 passengers were ill.

"They are held to a standard that, frankly, not everyone else is held to", said Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of Cruise Critic, a popular cruise review website. The CDC is required publish data on the Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships portal maintained by the agency where 3% or more of passengers or crew report symptoms of gastrointestinal illness to the ship's medical staff.

Oasis' outbreak is the first to meet the threshold for CDC reporting in 2019 - and the first outbreak of that scale for the ship.

For Popeleski, who didn't get sick on the trip, there is a silver lining despite the interruption to his vacation. Although shipboard outbreaks cause headlines, norovirus has also occurred at schools, conferences and in hotels. "Anything beats the cold weather in Vermont".

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