Man dies as bug hits cruise ship

The Marco Polo had sailed from Tilbury in London on Sunday
A man has died and more than 150 people have taken ill on board a cruise liner berthed in Invergordon, Easter Ross.

The vomiting bug, norovirus, is thought to have taken hold on the Marco Polo, which is touring the UK and Ireland with 769 passengers and 340 crew.

On Monday, a 74-year-old man, thought to be from Norwich, died on the liner.

Operators Transocean Tours said the man's death was unrelated to the virus outbreak, and that the ship had been inspected by local health officials.

In a statement, the firm said 75 people - 54 passengers and 21 crew members - had fallen ill with "an unconfirmed virus".

It added: "In an unrelated incident, a 74-year-old male passenger, with chronic heart and breathing problems, suffered a fatal heart attack on board ship and paramedics were unable to resuscitate him."

Dr Ken Oates said the man who died had many underlying health problems
However, the local health board NHS Highland said about 150 people on board the ship had suspected norovirus.

Dr Ken Oates, interim public health director, said: "An elderly passenger died onboard the ship early on Monday morning.

"He had serious underlying health conditions. The cause of death has not yet been identified and a post mortem will be carried out.

"On Monday evening, two people were admitted to Raigmore Hospital who are showing symptoms of norovirus.

"A team of GPs and local nurses are onboard the ship to assist those who feel unwell."

The health board said tests were under way to establish whether the outbreak has been caused by norovirus.

The ship had sailed from Tilbury in London on Saturday but has now been detained at Invergordon harbour.

The whole thing has been handled really badly

Maxine Smith
Invergordon councillor
Transocean Tours said: "Marco Polo commenced her current cruise in Tilbury on Saturday 4 July and called at Invergordon on Monday, where she underwent an inspection from the local port health officials.

"They subsequently authorised the ship's administration to allow all other non-affected passengers to proceed ashore for sightseeing.

"The vessel is scheduled to sail from Invergordon on the afternoon of Tuesday 7 July to continue her voyage."

'No protocols'

However, Invergordon councillor Maxine Smith criticised how the situation had been handled, claiming that potentially infected passengers were allowed to wander through the town after the ship docked there.

"There doesn't seem to have been any protocols in place, there was no information," she said.

"We have shopkeepers, businesses and people who've come into contact with cruise passengers who are all worried that they have come into contact with someone who has potentially has the virus.

"The whole thing has been handled really badly."

Although norovirus is fairly common its effects are magnified when outbreaks occur within enclosed spaces such as cruise liners.

The winter vomiting bug is not usually dangerous, but can prove serious when it hits the very old, the very young or people with underlying health problems.

But most people make a full recovery within one to two days.

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