Health Concerns For Passengers On Disabled Ship

The Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous stands by to assist the cruise ship Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, Feb. 11, 2013. The Carnival Triumph lost propulsion power after an engine room fire Feb. 10, 2013. [U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Paul McConnell.]
Over 4,000 people are anxiously waiting to get off a Carnival cruise ship that developed engine problems after it departed from Galveston last week. Passengers are reporting sweltering cabins and raw sewage, and experts say some of those people could face serious health risks.

Tugboats are now towing the disabled ship to Mobile, Alabama, but until it gets there, some passengers are having to endure conditions they call deplorable.  And that includes reports of backed-up toilets that sent raw sewage into hallways and cabins. 

Dr. Herbert Dupont directs the Center for Infectious Diseases at the UT School of Public Health

"And if people touch it, which they invariably have to do, and get their fingers or hands near their mouth, they're subject to developing infections of the intestional tract."

Those infections include hepatitis and dysentery, along with norovirus, which is known as the "cruise ship virus."  Dupont worries some of those passengers could find themselves seriously ill.

"If we're talking about elderly, infirm, immunocompromised, which is what a cruise ship group is like, then a bout of dysentery or diarrhea can actually be life-threatening." 

Carnival Cruise Lines officials say a medical triage unit will be on dock when the ship arrives, but Dupont says some ill passengers may not develop symptoms until a few days after they get home.

Bio photo of Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

Gail Delaughter joined KUHF in October 2008 as Saturday morning news anchor and host. A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, Gail has extensive experience in Texas and Louisiana as a radio news reporter and morning show anchor and co-host...