If you watch our cruise talk video from the Celebrity Mercury, you’ll hear the words “Sanitize your hands!” from the ship’s chief bartenders during their round of “Liars Club”. Liars Club is a funny game they play sometimes on cruise ships, but his point should be taken very seriously. A recent study published in the November 1st issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases by Boston University School (BUSM), Carney Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance and Tufts University School of Medicine, finds that poorly sanitized restrooms contributed to the outbreak of infectious diseases like Norovirus on cruise ships. The study found that though most restrooms were cleaned daily, certain areas like toilet seat, flush handle or button, toilet stall inner handhold, stall inner door handle, restroom inner door handle, and baby changing table surfaces were still likely to become contaminated between cleanings.
It all seems like a “no brainer” to me. Even if the restroom is cleaned every hour it is impossible for restroom sanitation to completely prevent the spread of the virus. If one person uses the restroom after another who is suffering from norovirus, then the second person is likely to pick up the virus on their hands from virus left behind by the first user. Unless your cruise line has an attendant who wipes every surface with bleach after each person uses the restroom, the virus will be transferred from person to surface to person.
So what is the solution? The CDC and medical professionals tell us that the best way to prevent the spread of virus is hand washing and hand sanitation. Make sure that you thoroughly wash your hands after using he rest room. A good length of time for hand washing is to sing the song “Happy Birthday” while washing with soap and water. Then dry your hand thoroughly with a paper towel. As an extra precaution, don’t touch the door with your bare hand when you leave. if you can, use a paper towel to open the door. That additional precaution will hopefully protect you from the person ahead of you who didn’t wash his hands before exiting the restroom. The next step is to use hand sanitizer often. Even if you wash when leaving the restroom or your stateroom, if you touch anything in the halls along the way like a wall, railing, or elevator button, you should be sure to use the hand sanitizing stations set up at the entrances to the dining areas. Most contain a specially designed sanitizer produced by Germstar that kills noro. If your cruise ship doesn’t provide these stations, then carry a purse size bottle of this special sanitizer in your purse or in your pocket. A pack of 6 2 oz containers is available at germstar.com for $18. An alcohol based sanitizer like Purell works against bacteria but not viruses. If you are dining at the buffet and touch any shared items like a serving spoon or tongs, you should probably re-use the hand sanitizer before you sit down to eat.
I have found that all of the cruise ships I’ve sail did strive to maintain clean restrooms. They certainly are probably more clean than the restroom at your local restaurant, but even with daily or hourly cleaning, the best way for cruisers to take charge of their own health is to proactively sanitize their own hands.