60-Second Health

Cruise Ship Bug Takes to the Skies

Norovirus, famous for ruining cruises, sickened successive crews and passengers on an Air New Zealand plane. Katherine Harmon reports

Holiday travel is a recipe for infection. And recent studies have shown how easily the infamous cruise ship bug, norovirus, can be transmitted on planes.

After a passenger puked on an Air New Zealand flight, crew members tidied up, then clocked out after the plane landed. “Not only did the crew that cleaned up the mess get sick, but on every successive flight at least one or more crew members got sick with typical symptoms of norovirus.” David Freedman, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, at the recent meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

In fact, almost half of all crew members that worked the plane over the next five days picked up the virus. Planes aren’t scrubbed thoroughly between flights, and norovirus can linger on surfaces for days. But “in looking at the typical disinfectants that are used by airlines, none of the routine disinfectants would be considered effective against norovirus.”

So, when traveling, wash your hands often. And keep your fingers crossed.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]  

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