In response to the Coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for ships originating from, or stopping in, the United States to help prevent, detect and medically manage suspected cases.
Specifically, to prevent spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections during and after a voyage, the CDC recommends that commercial ships encourage crew members and passengers to postpone travel when sick. If already onboard when symptoms arise, patients should self-isolate and inform onboard medical center immediately if they develop a fever (100.4°F / 38°C or higher) or develop other signs or symptoms of sickness. Also, proper respiratory, cough and hand hygiene is advised.
Prior to boarding, if a passenger or crew is suspected to have COVID-19 based on symptoms and travel history, the CDC advises that the person not be allowed to board the vessel. If a sick person is already onboard, to minimize the virus’ spread, the CDC recommends isolating all passengers and crew with possible symptoms in a single-occupancy cabin with the door closed until symptoms are improved. Further, passengers and crew who have had high-risk exposures to a person suspected of having COVID-19 should be quarantined in their cabins.
The CDC advises shipping companies to review their sick leave policies and communicate them to their employees. Importantly, the CDC requires ships destined for a U.S. post of entry to report any death onboard or illness that meets CDC’s definition of “ill person,” including suspected cases of COVID-19, to the CDC Quarantine Station with jurisdiction for the port.
Before arriving at a U.S. port, vessel medical staff and telemedicine providers or a cruise line representative must discuss the disembarkation of patients suspected of having COVID-19 with the CDC Quarantine Station and state and local health departments.
The CDC has posted resources about assessing exposure risk and identifying contacts of ill travelers and crew, clinical management, laboratory specimen collection, or infection control concerns related to COVID-19. The Interim Guidance for Ships on Managing Suspected Coronavirus Disease can be found on the CDC website, and the Emergency Operations Center can be reached at 770-488-7100 or [email protected].