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    'Plague Ship' Virus Strikes Yet Again

    A second cruise liner hit by the norovirus vomiting illness has arrived back in the UK.

    The Azura docked in Southampton yesterday morning and was leaving later for a 12-night Christmas cruise to the Canaries.

    P&O Cruises said: "There has been an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness among the passengers on Azura.

    "This illness is suspected to be norovirus, which is highly contagious and typically transmitted from person to person.

    Norovirus is common throughout the UK, Europe and North America and has affected a number of schools, hospitals, nursing homes and children's day care centres."

    The ship had been on an 11-night Iberia cruise. There were 3,059 passengers on board, of whom ten are known to be suffering symptoms.

    Another P&O liner, the Oriana, was dubbed "a plague ship" after it was struck by the virus.

    The ship, which carries 1,843 passengers, returned to Southampton yesterday from a 10-day Baltic cruise and left last night for a 23-night cruise in the eastern Mediterranean.

    Scores of passengers were laid low by the virus.

    During the cruise, passenger Paul Gilman, 62, told the Daily Mail: "People were falling like flies, yet the crew were trying to insist everything was fine.

    "Everyone is saying, 'this is a plague ship'. It's a living nightmare."

    Birmingham City Hospital yesterday told visitors to stay away after it was forced to close three wards due to the norovirus infection.

    Other hospitals have also taken to Twitter to caution visitors and potential patients.

    Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust tweeted: "Please don't visit hospital until at least 2 days after last symptoms of vomiting diarrhoea norovirus Stay home, rest & take fluids."

    Recent figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show that more than 750,000 people could be affected by the outbreak of norovirus that has swept the UK.

    There have been 2,630 confirmed reports of norovirus so far this season, but for every reported case there are likely to be a further 288 unreported sufferers, the HPA said.

    It means 757,440 people could be affected by the stomach bug - representing a 72% increase on the same period last year.

    The infection has led to the closure of dozens of hospital wards.

    Norovirus is highly contagious and can be transmitted through contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces and objects. It is known to spread rapidly in closed environments such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes.

    Symptoms include sudden vomiting, diarrhoea or both, a temperature, headache and stomach cramps.

    The bug usually goes away within a few days.

    Although people can suffer from norovirus at any time of the year, activity increases in the winter months, with most cases seen between October and April.

    By Telegraph Reporters, The Daily Telegraph

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    The "plague" visited me about a month ago (at my home - how dare it!) and traveled through the entire family. It was the nastiest thing we'd ever encountered. I feel bad for anyone who is unfortunate enough to encounter this at sea.

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