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      Hygiene inspections on passenger ships in Europe - an overview

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          Hygiene inspections on passenger ships are important for the prevention of communicable diseases. The European Union (EU) countries conduct hygiene inspections on passenger ships in order to ensure that appropriate measures have been taken to eliminate potential sources of contamination which could lead to the spread of communicable diseases. This study was implemented within the framework of the EU SHIPSAN project and it investigates the legislation applied and practices of hygiene inspections of passenger ships in the EU Member States (MS) and European Free Trade Association countries.


          Two questionnaires were composed and disseminated to 28 countries. A total of 92 questionnaires were completed by competent authorities responsible for hygiene inspections (n = 48) and the creation of legislation (n = 44); response rates were 96%, and 75.9%, respectively.


          Out of the 48 responding authorities responsible for hygiene inspections, a routine programme was used by 19 (39.6%) of these to conduct inspections of ships on national voyages and by 26 (54.2%) for ships on international voyages. Standardised inspection forms are used by 59.1% of the authorities. A scoring inspection system is applied by five (11.6%) of the 43 responding authorities. Environmental sampling is conducted by 84.1% of the authorities (37 out of 44). The inspection results are collected and analysed by 54.5% (24 out of 44) of the authorities, while 9 authorities (20.5%) declared that they publish the results. Inspections are conducted during outbreak investigations by 75% and 70.8% of the authorities, on ships on national and international voyages, respectively. A total of 31 (64.6%) and 39 (81.3%) authorities conducted inspections during complaint investigations on ships on international and on national voyages, respectively. Port-to-port communication between the national port authorities was reported by 35.4% (17 out of 48) of the responding authorities and 20.8% (10 out of 48) of the port authorities of other countries.


          This study revealed a diversity of approaches and practices in the conduct of inspections, differences in the qualifications/knowledge/experience of inspectors, the legislation applied during inspections, and the lack of communication and training among many EU countries. An integrated European inspection programme involving competent expert inspectors in each EU Member States and special training for ship hygiene delivered to crew members and inspectors would help to minimize the risk of communicable diseases. Common inspection tools at a European level for hygiene inspection practices and port-to-port communication are needed.

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          Most cited references 18

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          Watching the Games: public health surveillance for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

           L Jorm,  M Hills,  S Thackway (2003)
          To describe the development of the public health surveillance system for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games; document its major findings; and discuss the implications for public health surveillance for future events. Planning for the system took almost three years. Its major components included increased surveillance of communicable diseases; presentations to sentinel emergency departments; medical encounters at Olympic venues; cruise ship surveillance; environmental and food safety inspections; surveillance for bioterrorism; and global epidemic intelligence. A daily report integrated data from all sources. Sydney, Australia. Surveillance spanned the period 28 August to 4 October 2000. Residents of Sydney, athletes and officials, Australian and international visitors. No outbreaks of communicable diseases were detected. There were around 5% more presentations to Sydney emergency departments than in comparable periods in other years. Several incidents detected through surveillance, including injuries caused by broken glass, and a cluster of presentations related to the use of the drug ecstasy, prompted further action. Key elements in the success of public health surveillance for the Games included its careful planning, its comprehensive coverage of public health issues, and its timely reporting and communication processes. Future systems need to be flexible enough to detect the unexpected.
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            A review of outbreaks of foodborne disease associated with passenger ships: evidence for risk management.

            Foodborne disease outbreaks on ships are of concern because of their potentially serious health consequences for passengers and crew and high costs to the industry. The authors conducted a review of outbreaks of foodborne diseases associated with passenger ships in the framework of a World Health Organization project on setting guidelines for ship sanitation. The authors reviewed data on 50 outbreaks of foodborne disease associated with passenger ships. For each outbreak, data on pathogens/toxins, type of ship, factors contributing to outbreaks, mortality and morbidity, and food vehicles were collected. The findings of this review show that the majority of reported outbreaks were associated with cruise ships and that almost 10,000 people were affected. Salmonella spp were most frequently associated with outbreaks. Foodborne outbreaks due to enterotoxigenic E. coli spp, Shigella spp, noroviruses (formally called Norwalk-like viruses), Vibrio spp, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, Cyclospora sp, and Trichinella sp also occurred on ships. Factors associated with the outbreaks reviewed include inadequate temperature control, infected food handlers, contaminated raw ingredients, cross-contamination, inadequate heat treatment, and onshore excursions. Seafood was the most common food vehicle implicated in outbreaks. Many ship-associated outbreaks could have been prevented if measures had been taken to ensure adequate temperature control, avoidance of cross-contamination, reliable food sources, adequate heat treatment, and exclusion of infected food handlers from work.
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              Epidemiology of gastroenteritis on cruise ships, 2001-2004.

              The incidence of diarrheal disease among cruise ship passengers declined from 29.2 cases per 100,000 passenger days in 1990 to 16.3 per 100,000 passenger days in 2000. In 2002, the Vessel Sanitation Program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 29 outbreaks (3% or more passengers ill) of acute gastroenteritis on cruise ships, an increase from 3 the previous year. This analysis of gastroenteritis on cruise ships, conducted in 2005, details the increase in outbreak incidence rates during 2001 through 2004. Using Gastrointestinal Illness Surveillance System data, investigators evaluated incidence rates of gastroenteritis on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports, carrying 13 or more passengers, by cruise length and reporting region during the study period. The investigators also evaluated the association between inspection scores, and gastroenteritis incidence and the frequency of outbreaks in 2001 through 2004. During the study period, the background and outbreak-associated incidence rates of passengers with acute gastroenteritis per cruise were 25.6 and 85, respectively. Acute gastroenteritis outbreaks per 1000 cruises increased overall from 0.65 in 2001 to 5.46 in 2004; outbreaks increased from 2 in 2001 to a median of 15 per year in 2002-2004. Median ship inspection scores remained relatively constant during the study period (median 95 on a 100-point scale), and were not significantly associated with either gastroenteritis incidence rates (risk ratio, 1.00; 95% confidence interval, 0.98-1.02) or outbreak frequency (Spearman's coefficient, 0.01, p=0.84). Despite good performance on environment health sanitation inspections by cruise ships, the expectation of passenger cases of gastroenteritis on an average 7-day cruise increased from two cases during 1990-2000 to three cases during the study period. This increase, likely attributable to noroviruses, highlights the inability of environmental programs to fully predict and prevent risk factors common to person-to-person and fomite spread of disease.

                Author and article information

                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central
                10 March 2010
                : 10
                : 122
                [1 ]Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Thessaly, Larissa, Greece
                [2 ]Association of Port Health Authorities, Southampton Port Health Authority, London, UK
                [3 ]Gastrointestinal, Emerging and Zoonotic Infections Department Health Protection Agency, Centre for Infections, London, UK
                [4 ]Hamburg Port Health Center, Institute of Occupational and Maritime Medicine, Hamburg, Germany
                [5 ]European Cruise Council and Cruise Line International Association
                [6 ]University College London, Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, UK
                [7 ]Department of Public and Administrative Health, National School of Public Health, Athens, Greece
                Copyright ©2010 Mouchtouri et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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                Public health


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