MOBILE, Al - While passengers are talking about the emotional toll the cruise took on them, doctors say they also could have been exposed to germs that can cause infections and physical ailments. Now that they are back some potential side effects may be on the horizon.
Even though the seas were calm, the passengers experienced the perfect storm.
"Right now, you have really a perfect "Petri dish" on this vessel because people are really close to one another. Sewage is not being well contained. The ventilation is out, which makes for a whole host of other possible problems, including pneumonia from Legionella infections for example," said Dr. Fred Lopez, an LSU Health Sciences Center professor of medicine in the section of infectious diseases.
Add to that rotting food, that can cause food poisoning, the potential for staph infections and E. coli infections from the raw sewage, and it's also flu season.
"Probably the most common is going to be the flu because if people aren't immunized against the flu, and are close to one another, you can see how they might also transmit infection," he explained.
Another thing to think about is all the people on the ship who have to take regular prescription medication for maybe, COPD, asthma or diabetes, heart failure, kidney disease or even high blood pressure. What if they didn't bring enough of that medication to last longer? How would that affect their condition?
And it's those people with chronic illness who could be most affected long term by an infection.
"It's possible that people are going to get off this ship feeling perfectly fine and within a few days are going to develop perhaps gastrointestinal illnesses, due to perhaps a norovirus infection or maybe respiratory tract infection due to the flu, so I would recommend that anybody, no matter how well they feel, that if they develop one of these syndromes of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, respiratory tract infection with fever, for example, that they present immediately to their doctor for further evaluation," Dr. Lopez recommended.
The two most important steps to stay well are, in this circumstance, hard to do. First, stay hydrated with lots of water, and second, keep your hands constantly clean. Germs are not only transmitted by air but also when people touch something contaminated and then touch their eyes, noses or mouths.