Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 16:50 UK

Comments on virus investigation

Marco Polo

Three people are now being treated in hospital after the outbreak of a virus on a cruise ship in the Cromarty Firth.

Here is a snapshot of some of the comments made on the outbreak and suspicions the cause is norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug.

DR KEN OATES, NHS HIGHLAND

The consultant in public health medicine said: "It was quite late in the day yesterday when we became aware of all the facts and by that time a lot of the passengers had already been out and about.

"It is important to reassure the local population that the risk to them is extremely low.

"Novovirus for most people is relatively mild. It can be unpleasant, but within 12 to 24 hours most people make a full recovery.

"I would like to reassure the population in Invergordon that really there is a very low risk to them."

MAXINE SMITH, HIGHLAND COUNCILLOR

The Highland councillor for the Cromarty Firth ward criticised action taken and information released in the early stages of the incident.

She said: "There doesn't seem to have been any protocols in place, there was no information.

"We've had shopkeepers worried about their business and people worried about having come into contact with someone who potentially has the virus."

PROF HUGH PENNINGTON, BACTERIOLOGIST

The bacteriologist at the University of Aberdeen said: "Most cases of norovirus are not food associated, although they can be.

"It is person to person spread, it can be spread by food and can be spread by the environment as well.

"This is a problem for cruise liners because once a person has been sick it is very difficult to get rid of this very tough virus."

PASSENGERS

Helen Winchcombe, a passenger on the ship, said the situation for those who had not taken ill was bearable and the crew were trying to keep passengers as well informed of developments as they could.

She said: "Generally speaking on board everything is calm. The crew is doing their utmost to please everybody."

Another contacted by the BBC, but asked to remain anonymous, said: "We are staying in our cabins. My husband became ill overnight with sickness and diarrhoea, so we haven't slept.

"He's feeling very poorly. The doctor has been and they are being very good.

"It's ok and we're getting free water. I've ordered a cup of tea and it's taking ages to come, but I think they are very busy. We were told last night that 160 people on the boat were sick."

TRANSOCEAN TOURS

The cruise ship operators, Transocean Tours of Bremen, said: "The management of Transocean Tours, the ship owners, Story Cruise Ltd and the NHS authorities are working closely together ensuring the maintenance of the standard Health Protection Agency protocols that are in place to minimise the effect of the virus and eradicate it.

"Marco Polo began her current cruise in Tilbury on 4 July and yesterday called at Invergordon, where the ship's medical staff invited the local port health officials for a common inspection because of the increased number of cases during the previous night.

"The ship had previously been on a cruise to Iceland. A very small number of people on board had suffered symptoms of gastro-enteritis during the cruise but this is unrelated to the current outbreak and Port authorities gave the ship a clean bill of health when it docked at Tilbury."



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