Date: Mon 18 Mar 2013
Source: Turks & Caicos Weekly News [abbrev., edited]
The nation capital has seen an increase in the number of diarrhoea and vomiting cases this week. Premier, Dr. Rufus Ewing, told the media on Wednesday [13 Mar 2013] that the last reported number was 74, of which two-thirds have direct linkages to operations at a major restaurant establishment on Grand Turk. Ewing holds the portfolio of Health Minister. The Premier noted that officials from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), here on other businesses, were on hand to support the Ministry of Health. According to him, samples have been collected and sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing. Ewing, at Parliament on Thursday, also addressed the issue and said: "Tourism is our main revenue earner and we have to do all that is necessary to protect the industry...the pathological agent causing the diarrhea and vomiting is unknown at this time.
"But the Communicable Disease Surveillance and outbreak response team are vigilantly working and collaborating with the Caribbean Public Health Agency to establish the cause and implement public health measures to control and contain the outbreak. It is uncertain at this time whether this is a viral outbreak initiated by a cruise ship passenger or a point food source outbreak from the restaurant." The Premier acknowledged that the ministry of health staff within the various departments and units are doing a tremendous job in communicable disease surveillance and control with respect to this outbreak, but noted that much strengthening of the system is needed.
The Ministry has stressed the importance of minimising the opportunities to spread illness-causing germs by practicing proper food safety and personal hygiene measures at all times. It is also reminding all stakeholders to educate clients and patients about proper food safety and hygiene practices as well as of their obligations to report cases of diarrhoea or vomiting to the Ministry in a timely manner. Anyone who experiences diarrhoea and or vomiting has been urged to report to their nearest health care provider and avoid going to work until their symptoms have resolved. The situation continues to be monitored.
Date: Wed 27 Mar 2013
Source: ABC News, Associated Press report [edited]
T&C Cruise Terminal Closes After Illness Outbreak
The tourist board in the Turks & Caicos Islands announced Tuesday [26 Mar 2013] that the cruise terminal on Grand Turk has been temporarily closed. Cruise lines starting cancelling port calls to Grand Turk on 11 Mar 2013 after passengers suffered from symptoms of gastroenteritis after visiting the Grand Turk Cruise Center in the British Caribbean territory. In its Tuesday statement, the British territory's tourist board didn't say why or when the nearly 18-acre Grand Turk Cruise Center closed. Board Director Ralph Higgs said local authorities were addressing the problem and hoped to reopen the terminal soon.
In Turks & Caicos, the general manager of the Grand Turk Cruise Center declined comment and referred queries to Carnival Corp., which opened the terminal in 2006. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said the Miami-based company was "investigating whether there may be a link with consumption of food and beverages while guests were ashore in Grand Turk." Gulliksen said Carnival and other cruise lines cancelled port calls to Grand Turk to be cautious and are monitoring the situation while authorities try to determine the cause of the illness. Various cruise lines rerouted their ships or extended their stays in ports in Puerto Rico, Bahamas and other locales.
A Florida-based spokesman for the cruise center said Tuesday [26 Mar 2013] afternoon that numerous experts, working with local health officials, have been examining and testing food and water at the cruise terminal over the last 2 weeks.
"Multiple measures are currently being taken to ensure the quality of all food, water and sanitation systems going forward," spokesman Buck Banks wrote in an e-mail. He said he works for a public relations company hired by the cruise terminal. The Grand Turk Cruise Center declined to provide information about when the terminal closed to ships, but the terminal's port schedule listed no arrivals after 13 Mar 2013. The port includes a 45 000-square-foot shopping center, a big swimming pool and numerous food and beverage outlets.
Date: Tue 26 Mar 2013
Source: Cruise news [edited]
As Precaution, Cruise Lines Skip Calls to Grand Turk
Cruise lines are continuing to pull out of their calls in Grand Turk after passengers reported feeling ill following visits to the Caribbean port in early March . Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises have replaced planned stops in Grand Turk next week. Several lines canceled calls last week after passengers on previous cruises to the port reported gastrointestinal issues. While no link between illness and food and beverage consumption on the island has been confirmed, Holland America, Carnival and Princess report they are investigating.
As a precaution, Carnival has canceled Freedom's 25 Mar 2013, Breeze's 26 Mar 2013 call, and Glory's 29 Mar 2013 call. Instead, Freedom will visit Freeport and Breeze will call on Key West, according to spokesman Vance Gulliksen. Glory will have an extra sea day and will extend port times in St. Thomas and San Juan. Holland America's Eurodam will forgo its scheduled 25 Mar 2013 call to Grand Turk and will sail directly to San Juan, its next scheduled port of call. Eurodam will arrive 5 hours earlier than scheduled, so passengers will have more time in port. Ruby Princess also was scheduled to call on Grand Turk on 29 Mar 2013 but instead will call on Nassau, according to Princess Cruises spokeswoman Karen Candy. Spokespeople for the lines have said the companies will continue to monitor the situation.
"Scheduled calls to Grand Turk on future Caribbean sailings through the end of the season in early April will be assessed, as the call dates get closer," Holland America spokesman Erik Elvejord said in a statement. Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam each has one scheduled call to Grand Turk the 1st week of April . The port's online calendar shows no ships scheduled in Grand Turk for the rest of the month. [Byline: Colleen McDaniel]
[The absence of a diagnostic test result from the gastroenteritis outbreak inked to a particular shore-based restaurant 14 days ago limits interpretation of this outbreak. But the predominant symptoms of gastroenteritis and vomiting are suggestive of an outbreak of norovirus infection. Outbreaks of norovirus infection have been frequently associated with cruise ships trading mostly, but not exclusively, in the Caribbean.
The Turks and Caicos Islands outbreak is unusual in that the source of the infection appears to have been land-based and not associated with the cruise ship. Prudently cruise ships are presently avoiding the Turks and Caicos Islands until the source and identification of the causative agent have been established.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory consisting of 2 groups of tropical islands in the West Indies. The larger Caicos Islands and the smaller Turks Islands are popular destinations for tourists, and also trade as offshore financial centres. The total population is about 45,000.