By Jessica Rowe
A Kiwi couple are still recovering from a week of debilitating hell, stuck on board a cruiseliner with a norovirus outbreak.
They were among 143 people who came down with the gastroenteritis illness on the leg from Wellington to Sydney.
Tearoha Terrill thought it was funny when her partner Max Hayes contracted norovirus, just one day into their cruise, but then he gave it to her.
“It's just something that comes out of both ends at the same time, and Max actually had it quite violently for about 12 hours – vomiting and diarrhoea.
And they weren't the only ones.
“Before I contracted it I popped out of the cabin a few times, and every second person I spoke to – and they were mostly elderly – they either had it two to three days before Wellington or they knew someone who had it,” says Ms Terrill.
The couple boarded the Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas from Wellington on Monday. The following day, they started to feel queasy, and were quarantined to their windowless cabin.
“It was just really hard,” says Ms Terrill. “You were locked away in a box. They are not very big, the cabins, and it wasn't a nice feeling. And we both had to share a tiny bathroom, which is about the size of a wardrobe.”
They were among 135 passengers and eight staff who fell violently ill to the virus.
They were given pills and a letter from the ship's medical officer wishing them a speedy recovery, but also confining them to house arrest.
“To help prevent the spread of your illness to others,” it read, “you are required to remain in the comfort of your stateroom for approximately the next 24 to 48 hours. When the onboard medical team determines that you are no longer contagious to others, you will be free to move about the ship.”
Dr John Cameron says the virus is highly contagious and almost impossible to contain onboard a cruise ship.
“Get out,” says Dr Cameron. “You cannot sanitise norovirus. You can try. But what you have to do is remove everyone from the environment and hope that the virus particles will kill themselves by not being able to infect anyone.”
Ms Terrill says she wished she knew about the outbreak prior to boarding.
“It would have been nice if they told us when we had embarked that there was a possibility that there was a virus onboard. Maybe we would have been a bit more vigilant with what we were doing, watching who was serving us with food etcetera.”
The ship and the terminal have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitised ahead of its voyage back to Auckland next week.