Alcohol-based hand cleansers on your next cruise

Alcohol-based hand rubbing removes microorganisms more effectively than hand washing with soap or other antiseptic agents and water. Furthermore, bedside alcohol-based solutions increase compliance with hand hygiene among healthcare workers.”

OK, but does it lower infections on cruise ships?

Antiseptic waterless handrubs are standard carry-on items and found everywhere on cruise ships, especially around buffet tables and restaurants. Their antimicrobial activity is due to their ability to denature proteins.

OK, but do they lower infections on cruise ships?

  • November: 700 passengers and crew on a ship bound for Fort Lauderdale fell ill with a highly contagious stomach virus.
  • October: Two Mississippi Queen cruises were cut short when passengers and crew became ill.” Twelve were admitted to a hospital.
  • June: A cruise liner had a major cleaning at the port for Edinburgh after more than 100 passengers were struck down by a virus.

Here’s more.

  • 63 passengers on the Funchal were hit by a bug.
  • 200 passengers were infected on the Sea Princess.
  • On the Van Gogh, norovirus affected 117 passengers and crew.

“Given the millions of people who go on cruise ships every year, outbreaks are not a real frequent occurrence, but they do seem to be increasing,” says Dr. David Freedman, director of the Travelers Health Clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “There have been at least three times as many recent outbreaks of diarrheal disease on cruise ships [2003 vs 2002].”

Despite easy access to waterless handrubs, there’s no way to judge their effect on outbreaks of infection on cruise ships.

This is one of those times when it’s appropriate to say, “More research is needed.”

11/20/06 18:27 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.