It’s back home for the more than 600 (out 3,000) passengers on the “Explorer of the Seas” Royal Caribbean cruise who likely caught the noroviruses, “a common cause of gastroenteritis, which produces vomiting and diarrhea.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants the ship better sanitized so the ship is leaving beautiful St. Thomas and headed home to New Jersey, which leads the nation in toxic waste dumps. There’s some irony in this.
When these passengers return, they will likely discover that buried in the fine-print of their ticket is a ban on class action lawsuits. They may find other language, like this:
The cruise line is not "liable to the passenger for damages for emotional distress, mental suffering/anguish or psychological injury of any kind under any circumstances, except when such damages were caused by the negligence of Carnival and resulted from the same passenger sustaining actual physical injury, or having been at risk of actual physical injury."
In other words, to bring a lawsuit, they may need to prove that actual physical injury resulted as a result of “unsanitary conditions aboard on the ship.” Let’s hope this new batch of sick passengers makes their case because cruise ship indifference to the health of their passengers has got to stop We are tired of this story!
Meanwhile, if you’re one of those New Jersey passengers whose vacation was cut short, think twice before visiting New York City. There is a fascinating but disgusting story in the New York Times today about the ubiquitous water towers on top of many NYC buildings. (There are estimated to be 12,000 to 17,000 of them.) Writes the Times,
[I]nside these rustic-looking vessels, there are often thick layers of muddy sediment. Many have not been cleaned or inspected in years. And regulations governing water tanks are rarely enforced, an examination by The New York Times shows.
Even some that are routinely maintained contain E. coli, a bacterium that is used by public health officials to predict the presence of viruses, bacteria and parasites that can cause disease.
When found in drinking water, E. coli, a microbe carried in the feces of mammals and birds, requires the issuance of a boil-water order, according to federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Samplings taken by The New York Times from water towers at 12 buildings in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn found E. coli in five tanks, and coliform in those tanks and three more. Coliform by itself is not harmful, but does indicate that conditions are ripe for the growth of potentially dangerous microorganisms. The positive results all came from the bottoms of the tanks, below the pipe that feeds the buildings’ taps, though public health experts say the contamination is still a concern because the water circulates throughout the inside of the tanks.
Dr. Stephen C. Edberg, “a public-health microbiologist at Yale University who invented the now-standard test for bacterial contamination in drinking water” wrote to the city:
“Fecal contamination means that the towers are subject to animal intrusion, almost certainly birds and potentially animals such as squirrels. Clearly, these units are not sealed to the outside.”
Continued the Times,
City health officials insist that the tanks are safe, and that the laws governing them are adequate. The city’s 311 help line gets dozens of calls each year from residents saying they have become ill from drinking water, but health officials say no cases have ever been traced back to a water tank.
That does not mean people are not getting sick, Dr. Edberg said.
“It’s very hard, with a population as large and dense as New York, to even ascertain even reasonably large illness outbreaks,” he said. “You’d literally have to have entire apartment buildings getting sick at the same time.”
Sorta like a cruise ship?