Mmmmm.. the fecal-oral cycle. It has a lot to do with people not washing their hands and I think it hits the cruise/travel crowd because there are a lot of elderly folks who may not quite being able to fully care for themselves on the road.
I had a friend who worked in a tourist place near Denali and their dumpster just started filling up with pants one day. Gross.
It may be partially that, but it's also that you are trapped in an environment. If you go to a restaurant, you might get lucky where the sick haven't touched your food or you haven't wandered around and touched a surface that they touched. When you are locked on a ship, your odds are greater in coming into contact just from repetition of the same environment, and then others who weren't as lucky when being served or touching things become ill and then you reach critical mass, where nearly everyone becomes ill.
I believe that there was an article recently that stated that the viruses remain active on surfaces longer than once imagined. Plus only very strong cleaners, like bleach, are able to eradicate them on surfaces. And forget about hand sanitizers, not very useful at all.
I just wish people would stop being so gross. Come on, this is something you're taught when you're like 4. If you use the potty, wash your hands. This may be an oft-repeated misconception (I don't know for sure) but even if there isn't soap, rubbing your hands under running water still removes a significant number of the germs.
Hygiene in the area of China I lived was pretty bad (the staff often used the same toilets as the guests, and you could watch them walking straight out of the toilet without washing their hands), but you could almost guarantee that anyone who had food poisoning had been to a Western or Japanese restaurant the night before. Chopping things up into small pieces, cooking everything at a high heat for a relatively short time and then serving it immediately made a big difference, because it was easy to tell when the food was cooked through. Salads, larger joints of meat and raw fish aren't so forgiving, although the presentation was often very impressive (the first time around, at least).
The story is only partially correct. Norovirus most often comes from touching something an already infected person has touched. Surfaces, such as stairway railings, walls, tables, chairs and counters are the most common places for infection. Humans unconsciously then touch their mouths and spread the virus that way. To avoid getting sick, wash your hands constantly or use the anti-bacterial dispensaries located outside most public rooms on cruise ships. Check the CDC website which does a much more thorough job of describing infection.
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