There is no shortage of news stories about outbreaks of infectious diseases and viruses on cruise ships. From 2103-2018, the cruise industry averaged 11 infections per year and 2019 is shaping up to be the same. Most often these are Norovirus, a highly contagious virus that causes intestinal distress, but culprits include E. coli, Cyclospora, Salmonella, and MRSA. Remediating an infectious disease outbreak in a vast, complex space like an ocean liner is not a simple task, requiring trained professionals with experience mitigating biohazards. One of the nation’s leading high-risk remediation and decontamination experts, Infection Control Technologies (ICT) of Monroe, New Jersey was recently called to perform such a biological decontamination on an ocean vessel serving as a research ship.
What Causes a MRSA outbreak?
Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is becoming a common superbug in health care settings and throughout community environments like schools and gyms. Like many Staph-type infections, MRSA outbreaks are increasing. Why? Staph is part of a human’s normal flora and fauna and normally stays in balance with the rest of its biome. The rise in improper or unnecessary use of antibiotics is part of the problem. Using antibiotics to treat a wide range of infections that are likely not bacterial-based allows bacteria to build a resistance to the drugs as the medicine also kills the flora and fauna that keep the body in balance. Similarly, when used to treat bacterial infections, an unfinished course of antibiotics produces the same result: The surviving pathogen gets stronger and resistant. It’s a classic example of Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest”. MRSA, in particular, has become highly resistant to antibiotics making treatment and decontamination especially difficult.
Why are there infectious outbreaks on cruise ships and other ocean vessels?
Any closed space that houses a large number of people is ripe for infection. Like a lot of infections, passengers and crew will be symptom-free or not recognize early onset during the incubation period and unknowingly share the bacteria through various forms of contact. MRSA is particularly contagious and can be spread by both person-to-person and indirect contact. All MRSA needs to compromise the system is a small break in the skin or mucous membranes. While that’s perhaps less likely for a cruise passenger, the same can’t be said of a ship crewmember performing varied physical tasks. Once a pathogen has found a captive audience, especially in an enclosed ship, an outbreak begins. And the danger doesn’t end when the infected person disembarks: MRSA organisms left untreated can remain viable on surfaces for up to six months lying in wait for crew and passengers to come. Because of MRSA’s ability to live on for extended periods on many surfaces – from towels to counters to equipment – professional biohazard decontamination is required. Simply wiping surfaces will not eliminate the bacteria from crevices, electronics, and absorbent materials.
How Infection Control Technologies remediated a ship-borne MRSA outbreak
When a shipping industry doctor contacted ICT, a division of Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc., to address a MRSA outbreak, its Biohazard Response team was deployed. Its decontamination and disinfection experts delivered some of today’s most advanced tools to mitigate the MRSA infestation. The process started with an extensive, detailed cleaning of the entire ship, its systems, and its furnishings. To safely and thoroughly decontaminate the surfaces and water sensitive touch points throughout the vessel, ICT employed TOMI’s Steramist Binary Ionization Technology. Binary Ionization Technology (BIT®) activates and ionizes a 7.8% Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) sole active-ingredient-based solution into a fine mist known as “ionized Hydrogen Peroxide” (iHP). The iHP contains a high concentration of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) consisting mostly of hydroxyl radicals (OH) to act as the killing agent. OH are one of the most powerful oxidizing agents in nature, and during the iHP process they kill bacteria, fungal spores and inactivate viral cells by destroying their proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. This leads to the cellular disruption and dysfunction allowing for the quick decontamination of targeted areas, objects, and large spaces. The only byproduct of a SteramistTM application is a small amount of water vapor that evaporates rapidly, making this technology ideal for decontaminating complex environments, limiting corrosivity and chemical-sensitivity risks.
Infection Control Technologies, (ICT) a division of Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is one of the nation’s leading Building Hygiene contractors. ICT provides Facility Hygiene Services and Emergency Decontamination for some of the nation’s most respected real estate and Risk Management Professionals, Health Care, Municipalities, Institutions, Food Safety, Transportation, and government organizations.