Corona RNA found in cruise ship cabins even after 17 days

Updated: Mar 29, 2020, 13:43 IST | Agencies | New York

"On the Diamond Princess, transmission largely occurred among passengers before quarantine was implemented, whereas crew infections peaked after quarantine," said the CDC

Pic/AFP
Pic/AFP

In what could change the entire debate about how long new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) survives on the surface, new research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that the coronavirus RNA was present even after 17 days on Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

The researchers said that "SARS-CoV-2 RNA was identified on a variety of surfaces in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated on the Diamond Princess but before disinfection procedures had been conducted".

"On the Diamond Princess, transmission largely occurred among passengers before quarantine was implemented, whereas crew infections peaked after quarantine," said the CDC.

After a person travelling on the cruise ship disembarked in Hong Kong and tested positive for the coronavirus, Japanese authorities decided to disallow the 3,700 passengers onboard to leave the ship when it reached Yokohama in February. The ship was hence put in quarantine until February 19.

When the quarantine in Yokohama in the end was removed and passengers could finally disembark, a total of 619 of 3,700 passengers and crew tested positive for COVID-19. The number of infected passengers subsequently rose to over 700. On the Grand Princess ship in California, crew members were likely infected on voyage A and then transmitted SARS-CoV-2 to passengers on voyage B.

The cruise ship, which was originally scheduled to return to San Francisco, was barred from docking at the Port of San Francisco after 21 people, including 19 crew members and two passengers, tested positive for COVID-19.

"The results of testing of passengers and crew on board the Diamond Princess demonstrated a high proportion (46.5 per cent) of asymptomatic infections at the time of testing. The study examined the Japanese and US government efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreaks on the Carnival-owned Diamond Princess ship in Japan and the Grand Princess ship in California.

"COVID-19 on cruise ships poses a risk for rapid spread of disease, causing outbreaks in a vulnerable population, and aggressive efforts are required to contain spread," said the CDC.

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