a1 The Enteric Diseases Branch, Division of Bacterial Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases
a2 and the Special Programs Group, Office of the Director, Center for Environmental Health and Injury Control,Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA
We reviewed data from the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), established by the US Public Health Service in 1975, to describe the epidemiology of shipboard diarrhoeal outbreaks, determine the risk of outbreak-related illness among cruise ship passengers, and evaluate changes in rates and patterns of shipboard diarrhoeal illness since the VSP was implemented. When the programme began, none of the cruise ships passed periodic VSP sanitation inspections; since 1978, more than 50% of ships have met the standard each year. On cruises lasting 3–15 days and having at least 100 passengers, diarrhoeal disease outbreaks investigated by the Centers for Disease Control decreased from 8·1 to 3·0 per 10 million passenger days between 1975–79 and 1980–85. The proportion of outbreaks due to bacterial pathogens (36%) did not change. Seafood cocktail was implicated in 8 of 13 documented food-borne outbreaks. The risk of diarrhoeal disease outbreaks on cruise ships appears to have decreased since implementation of the VSP but has not been eliminated.
(Accepted November 07 1988)