Tainted food and nearly 200 others sickened on a cruise to New Orleans

Written by Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) – More than a week after a cruise ship docked in the Gulf of Mexico with hundreds of tainted breadcrumbs aboard, 16 of the tourists who arrived on the ship have returned to New Orleans.

The passengers reported rashes, sunburns and nausea. One person was taken to a hospital. Authorities said the ship’s on-board procedure for cleaning food caused the problem.

Twelve other passengers who arrived on the ship — originally from London — remain in the city while officials investigate the cause of the infection.

A 31-year-old woman who spoke to CNN after the ship docked in New Orleans said she was worried about the safety of her family.

“I’ve got to be here for my job on Monday, so that’s where the main worry lies,” she said. “Then, after that, everyone’s going home and I’ve got my mother (and) stepfather to worry about.”

More than 400 people were ill

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 13 out of 438 passengers aboard the 4,060-ton Oceania Cruises ship were hospitalized after arriving in New Orleans on July 4.

Officials have identified 17 potential cases of mycobacterium abscessus, a type of bacteria known as a food-borne enterobacteriaceae.

The sources of the illnesses are unknown, but the CDC said the source appears to be the contaminated breadcrumbs aboard the ship.

The meal intended to be served on the evening of July 4 did not contain the recalled products, the CDC said, adding it appears that passengers were not served other items that might have been contaminated with the pathogen.

Flight attendants said they didn’t notice anything unusual

The CDC said investigators from the agency and the Food and Drug Administration are working to identify the bacteria and pinpoint the cause.

The American Red Cross said it provided over 300 people with much-needed cases of hand sanitizer and water upon arrival in New Orleans.

“If symptoms arise or you feel unwell, seek medical care immediately. If you do not have transportation and are suffering from symptoms, contact the American Red Cross on your home or hotel and a team will be dispatched to get you to treatment,” the organization said in a statement.

Passengers said they noticed no contamination on the ship’s food or its service staff, who were extremely helpful, according to CNN affiliate WVUE.

“Honestly, I was very worried, I thought I had a lot of infections. I really thought that maybe I would pick up an infection at home. But after taking the train up here, actually the flight into here, it was just so nice,” a woman who was aboard the ship told WVUE.

The CDC has sent test samples to the University of Mississippi.

“I’m grateful that the CDC has been able to protect us from this contaminated food, the extent of which has not been fully established,” said Roberto Ortiz of the University of Texas Medical Branch, who was on the ship.

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