Food Poisoning on a Cruise

Fear of food poisoning is a very valid concern on a cruise for many cruisers - but all it takes to avoid food poisoning is a little common sense.

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Medical expert and travel enthusiast Joe Springfield explains some simple facts about food poisoning on a cruise.

What IS food poisoning and how can I avoid it? Well, let's find out.

Travelers these days are becoming much more aware of food borne illness and how to avoid it. We all know about Salmonella, but a less known bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes, is getting more headlines of late. Which is a good thing. The more we know, the safer we can be. (Pathology is my field of expertise and interest, but I'll try not to be a bore about it!)

The most familiar bacteria for the laymen are salmonella, and E-Coli in a food borne illness. Symptoms are flu like and can be confused for other bacteria or even virus.

Without labouring the details, let's just take a quick lesson in pathology: Salmonella can usually develop 12 to 36 hours after eating the contaminated food. These are flu like symptoms. This bacteria will affect many people in any age category or health condition, especially severe in very young, elderly, or weakened immune systems.

Now let's talk about a less known bacteria, but possibly more ubiquitous – Listeria monocytogenes. Symptoms of Listeria infection, similar to those of salmonella poisoning, usually occur within three weeks after eating a product contaminated with the bacteria, but may occur as early as three days after exposure and as late as 70 days after exposure. Who knows what they ingested that long ago.

What is unique about this particular bacteria, is it can be present in cooked or prepared foods, foods that are normally thought safe once having been cooked, and deli type foods. Examples are hot dogs, cold cuts, unpasteurised dairy products and soft cheeses. (Hot dogs if not heated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit may still have the bacteria.)

If you are healthy and not in a risk category, Listeria may not be a factor – it is not as virulent as other forms of bacteria – but if you are in a high risk group, elderly, immune depressed or very young, you may want to avoid such foods.

Please note that the information on these pages is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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 Ship's Doctor

Medical expert and travel enthusiast Joe Springfield offers some tips and advice about typical travel concerns.

• cabin fever
• cold climates
• food poisoning
• jet lag
• norwalk virus
• seasickness
• tropical concerns

For more advice on all sorts of topics, take a look at the Prow's Edge Cruise Forums and Cruise Message Boards and see what fellow passengers have to say about cruises.

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