Friday, January 31, 2014

llness cuts short another cruise vacation

12 hours ago
A man passes the Caribbean Princess cruise ship being used as official accommodation for attendees of the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet...
© Toby Melville / Reuters / REUTERS
The Caribbean Princess is returning to Houston a day early after an outbreak of illness on board.
For the second time in a week, illness has cut short another cruise line vacation, this time on the Caribbean Princess.
The ship, operated by Princess Cruises, is heading back to Houston a day early, company officials said, citing both anticipated dense fog and a confirmed outbreak of norovirus.
At least 176 people on board fell ill during the cruise, according to the cruise line and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That includes 165 of the 3,104 passengers and 11 of the 1,149 crew members. Two CDC health officials were expected to board the ship late Thursday and Friday. The vessel launched on a seven-day cruise to the western Caribbean on Jan. 25. It was scheduled to return on Saturday.
Cruise line officials said in a statement that three passengers currently had active symptoms of norovirus.
The move follows a high-profile outbreak of illness on the Royal Caribbean ship Explorer of the Seas, which returned early to New Jersey on Wednesday after a fast-moving stomach bug sickened nearly 700 people.
This is the third cruise ship outbreak to occur this year alone. A Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Norwegian Star, reported that 130 passengers and 12 crew members fell ill on two-week cruise that launched Jan. 5 from Miami.
About 20 million passengers take cruises in the U.S. each year, fueling a $37.8 billion annual industry, according to the American Association of Port Authorities. There were nine vessel outbreaks in 2013 and 16 in 2012, according to the CDC.
Cruise ships that carry 13 or more passengers and have a foreign itinerary with U.S. ports are under the jurisdiction of the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program, and cruise lines pay voluntary fees for inspection and training services. They’re required to tell CDC if 2 percent or more of passengers on a ship fall ill, officials said.
Norovirus is a common culprit in outbreaks on cruise ships, in nursing homes and other confined places. It is a fast-moving gut bug typically spread by infected people or contaminated food or water. Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S., resulting in about 21 million illnesses, between 56,000 and 71,000 hospitalizations and as many as 800 deaths, the CDC says.
The virus lingers on surfaces and spreads very easily. Thorough handwashing with hot water and soap and meticulous environmental cleaning can help stop the spread.

'Zombie' Bees Surface in the Northeast

Mutant "zombie bees" that act like the ghoulish creatures of horror films have surfaced in the Northeast after first appearing on the West Coast, a bee expert told ABC News on Wednesday.
An amateur beekeeper in Burlington, Vt., last summer found honeybees infested with parasites that cause the insects to act erratically and eventually kill them. It was the first spotting of zombie bees east of South Dakota, according to John Hafernik, a professor of biology at San Francisco State University whose team in October verified the infestation.
"They fly around in a disoriented way, get attracted to light, and then fall down and wander around in a way that's sort of reminiscent of zombies in the movies," Hafernik said. "Sometimes we've taken to calling [it], when they leave their hives, 'the flight of the living dead.'"
The professor accidentally discovered the zombie bees in California in 2008, and since then cases have been reported in Oregon, Washington state, California and South Dakota, he said.
The effect starts with a fly called the Apocephalus borealis, which latches onto European honeybees — common across the United States — and lays eggs in the bees that eventually hatch and wreak havoc on their hosts, Hafernik said.
"It's sort of a combination of zombies and aliens mixed together," he said.
But there's not necessarily any threat of a zombie (bee) invasion anytime soon, according to Hafernik.
The Vermont iteration of the bees first came to light when Anthony Cantrell, a hardware-store employee who took up beekeeping as a hobby less than a year ago, noticed some dead bees outside his home. Later, he came across, a website run by Hafernik and his colleagues, and realized some of his bees might have become infested.
Honeybees sometimes become infested by other parasites and diseases. "I just thought, great, one more thing that the poor honeybee has to deal with," Cantrell, who has two hives, told ABC News.
Steve Parise, an agriculture production specialist with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, on Tuesday brought up the threat posed by zombie bees, at a meeting of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, according to Cantrell, who is a member.
Farmers rely on bees to pollinate agriculture fields and produce honey, but there hasn't been any sign of a widespread infestation, even though it remains unclear just how many bees across the continent have been infested, he said.
While researchers at San Francisco State University have confirmed reports of the parasitic flies infesting bees up and down the West Coast — one-third of hives in the San Francisco Bay Area may at certain points in time be infested — no confirmed cases have popped up in the Northeast since October, according to Hafernik.
Once the flies infest bees with their eggs, the bees start exhibiting zombielike behavior; then, once the eggs hatch, they generally drop dead after about five minutes, he said.
The culprit fly was originally discovered in the 1920s, in Maine, and has been found across the United States, where it had been known to parasitize bumblebees and yellow jacket hornets — but not honeybees, he said.
In Vermont, the state's Agency of Agriculture may trap bees to investigate the zombie bee threat, according to The Associated Press.
Cantrell's waiting out the winter to see if the parasite survives the winter.