Cruising This Holiday Season? Follow These 4 Health Tips

DECEMBER 10, 2017
Cruises can be a fun and exciting way to vacation during the holidays.  From the onboard activities to the amazing destinations, you are sure to have an amazing time. However, it is important to stay informed and take preventive measures about potential health risks while aboard a cruise. Check out these 4 health tips while cruising this holiday season:
  1. Make sure that vaccines are up-to-date.
Educate patients to ensure that all of their vaccines are up-to-date, especially the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), varicella, and season influenza immunizations.1  Crew members and onboard travelers may come from countries where these diseases are more common than in the United States and where vaccinations are not routine. Cruise ships have had outbreaks of chickenpox and rubella (German measles).  Consult the CDC Travelers’ Health destination pages for further information on vaccines based on travel plans.2 
 
  1. Prevent illness from norovirus.
Outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhea due to norovirus have been reported on cruise ships. Frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and touching surfaces touched by others (eg stair railings) is the best way to prevent gastrointestinal illness. If soap and water are not available (eg shore excursions), then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.1 
 
During shore excursions, especially in developing countries, educate patients to eat only food that is cooked and served hot, drink only beverages from sealed containers, and avoid ice.  Pharmacists can direct patients to the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program website to search for cruise ship inspection scores.3  The website provides information by cruise ship and cruise line with the latest inspection scores.  Cruise ships with a score of 86 or higher are considered to have a satisfactory score, while those of 85 or lower are not satisfactory.3
 
  1. Prevent Zika transmission.
Advise pregnant patients and those planning to become pregnant to avoid traveling to areas with active Zika transmission, as infection can cause serious birth defects. Consult the CDC travel health website for a map and list of areas with active Zika transmission.4
 
  1. Stay up-to-date on travel health information through mobile apps.
Patients with smartphones can download free CDC apps to help them stay up-to-date with travel health information.  The CDC’s TravWell app helps individuals plan for safe and healthy international travel.5  The app allows patients to obtain destination-specific vaccine recommendations, a travel checklist, and healthy travel packing information.  Patients can also keep a medication and immunization record and set reminders for vaccine booster doses.  The app features are also available offline to access more easily during a cruise.5  The app Can I Eat This? helps prevent traveler’s diarrhea and can be accessed offline.5  Patients can determine whether food and drink choices are safe during international cruise travel.

References
  1. CDC. Cruise ship travel.  .  Accessed December 1, 2017.
  2. CDC. Travelers’ Health.  .  Accessed December 1, 2017.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vessel sanitation program.  .  Accessed December 1, 2017.
  4. CDC. Zika travel information.  . Accessed December 1, 2017.
  5. CDC.  Mobile apps.  .  Accessed December 1, 2017.


Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2
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