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Clinical Microbiology Newsletter

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Leisure travel by sea has existed since antiquity. Today's cruise ships serve as a gathering place for people in every age group from different countries and cultures. The closed environment aboard cruise ships, close contact among passengers and crew, and common sources of food and water provide ample opportunity for exposure to and transmission of infectious diseases. Of these, gastrointestinal and respiratory infections pose the greatest risk of outbreaks. Outbreaks on cruise ships present a public health concern, since infection is often easily spread, is difficult to control, and has the potential to disseminate pathogens. A collaborative effort between the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program and the cruise line industry has significantly reduced the incidence of passenger illness associated with infectious diseases.