Mystery Sickness Identified On Caribbean Islands

Starting last week, a mystery sickness in the Turks and Caicos islands has been targeting tourists, leaving residents of the popular island chain unaffected. It’s the kind of story that tourism officials – who paint their attractions as picturesque and pleasant – don’t want floating around. But search as they did, no one could identify the illness. Today, with the help of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC), epidemiologists have identified the mystery illness.

Recently referred to as the “cruise ship sickness,” the Norovirus at work in the Turks and Calicos island chain is accurately referred to as the “hospital illness.”

Happening in close-environment situations, the virus is at its worst in nursing homes, hospitals, cruise ships and schools. Official recommendations to avoid it on an island are the same as for cruise ships: practice safe sanitation and wash hands frequently.

This is the kind of thing that cuts cruises short. Ships that have an outbreak mid-sailing commonly stay at sea to avoid contaminating those ashore, or head back to port. Once there, a hazardous materials-type operation is performed, decontaminating the ship from top to bottom, leaving no surface untouched. We’re not sure how you do that to an island but the illness has not stopped the PR hoopla.

“The entire country remains appreciative of your patronage and understanding during this period,” said the Turks and Caicos tourist board in a statement reported by Caribbean360. “We wish to reassure you that the Turks and Caicos Islands is a safe and warm destination to visit.”

Flickr photo by zanzibar