To stay fit on a cruise, avoid the pub­lic re­stroom

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

NEW YORK: Go­ing on a cruise? To cut your risk of get­ting sick while sail­ing the high seas, avoid us­ing the ship’s pub­lic bath­rooms.

Re­searchers have found that only 37 per­cent of 273 ran­domly se­lected pub­lic re­strooms on cruise ships that were checked on 1 546 oc­ca­sions were cleaned at least daily, with the toi­let seat the best cleaned of six eval­u­ated ob­jects.

On 275 oc­ca­sions no ob­jects in a re­stroom were cleaned for at least 24 hours, with baby chang­ing ta­bles found to be the least thor­oughly-cleaned ob­ject.

Re­searcher Pro­fes­sor Philip Car­ling, of Car­ney Hospi­tal in Bos­ton, Mas­sachusetts, says pub­lic toi­let seats and flush de­vices, stall hand­holds and door han­dles, in­ner re­stroom door han­dles, and baby chang­ing ta­bles “on most, but not all, cruise ships” are not be­ing cleaned and dis­in­fected thor­oughly.

“There was a sub­stan­tial po­ten­tial for washed hands to be­come con­tam­i­nated while the passenger was ex­it­ing the re­stroom, given that only 35 per­cent of re­stroom exit knobs or pulls were cleaned daily,” says Car­ling, an in­fec­tion con­trol ex­pert.

“Only dis­in­fec­tion clean­ing by cruise ship staff can rea­son­ably be ex­pected to mit­i­gate th­ese risks.”

He and col­leagues from the Cam­bridge Health Al­liance and Tufts Uni­ver­sity School of Medicine, noted in the jour­nal Clin­i­cal In­fec­tious Dis­eases that lack of dis­in­fec­tion may sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the risk of ill­ness, par­tic­u­larly for the se­vere di­ar­rhoea and vom­it­ing caused by highly con­ta­gious norovirus.

Car­ling said cruise pas­sen­gers should min­imise pub­lic re­stroom use, wash hands with soap and wa­ter rather than al­co­hol-based hand rubs, and be aware of the dis­ease trans­mis­sion po­ten­tial from all pub­licly touched sur­faces. For the study, Car­ling’s group en­listed 46 health pro­fes­sion­als to check 273 ran­domly se­lected pub­lic re­strooms daily dur­ing cruises be­tween July 2005 and Au­gust 2008.

Most of the ships orig­i­nated from US ports and 82 per­cent from the five largest cruise lines.

Armed with hand­held ul­tra­vi­o­let lights to pick up flu­o­res­cent traces of a trans­par­ent but eas­ily clean­able so­lu­tion they had pre­vi­ously sprayed on sur­faces, the clean­ing spies iden­ti­fied sur­faces left un­cleaned for 24 hours.

Toi­let seats were the best-cleaned ob­jects. Of the 2 010 toi­let seats eval­u­ated, 50 per­cent had been cleaned. They found 42 per­cent of toi­let flush de­vices, 37 per­cent of toi­let stall doors and 31 per­cent of stall hand­hold bars had been cleaned.

Only 35 per­cent of in­te­rior bath­room door han­dles and 29 per­cent of baby chang­ing ta­bles had been cleaned.

Post-out­break clean­ing and dis­in­fec­tion prac­tices on cruise ships, al­though im­por­tant, are not enough, the re­searchers say. In­creased ef­forts to pre­vent out­breaks with bet­ter dis­in­fec­tion prac­tices are clearly needed. – Reuters

IN­SPEC­TION FAILED: On 275 oc­ca­sions, no ob­jects in a re­stroom on a cruise ship un­der scru­tiny were cleaned for at least 24 hours, with baby chang­ing ta­bles found to be the least thor­oughly-cleaned ob­ject.

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