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Avoid Getting Sick on a Cruise

Avoid Getting Sick on a Cruise

Virus outbreaks on cruise ships have been making news headlines recently. While these headlines can be alarming, outbreaks on cruise ships actually affect less than 1% of all passengers, according to the CDC.

Cruise lines are very careful about hygiene and sanitary measures on their ships, and the main health risk is contact with a person who’s contagious, even through touching the same handles, handrails, and elevator buttons. If one passenger is sick, a contagious illness can spread quickly since a cruise ship is the perfect closed environment for an outbreak.

Follow these few simple steps to avoid getting sick on a cruise to steer clear of flu viruses, stomach bugs, norovirus, and other infectious conditions from Assist America, our global travel emergency assistance partner:

  1. See your doctor before your departure.

    6 weeks before your vacation, plan to get a full check-up and ask your doctor about your destination(s). Your doctor will make sure you have all the vaccines you need for your trip and can recommend important medicines for you to bring in case of sickness.

  2. Pack plenty of sanitizer and wipes.

    While rooms are thoroughly cleaned, an extra wipe down of your cabin’s phone, doorknobs, and remotes can’t hurt. Always carry hand sanitizer with you to disinfect your hands as often as possible.

  3. No sharing.

    No matter how much you trust your travel buddies, don’t share plates or silverware and don’t sample cocktails. Remember that a person can be contagious without showing symptoms.

  4. Wash your hands properly.

    While hand sanitizer does the trick, it does not replace a good hand wash under warm soapy water for about 30 seconds. Once you’re done, dry your hands with a paper towel and use it to turn the faucet off and to touch the restroom’s door handle while exiting.

  5. Opt for cooked and pasteurized foods.

    Besides norovirus, other microbes like salmonella and listeria can also cause a living nightmare on a cruise ship. While salads, fruits, and raw seafood is safe on reputable cruise lines, use caution when you are dining onshore in less developed regions. High cooking temperatures kill bacteria and viruses that can upset your stomach, so maybe get your steak well-done. Bacteria can also thrive in unpasteurized dairy or egg, so ask the staff if the food is pasteurized before you savor that cheese platter.

  6. Use your own bathroom.

    Although public restrooms on a cruise ship are frequently sanitized and cleaned, using your own cabin’s bathroom is the safest bet.

  7. Watch for sick travelers.

    If you see another passenger who appears to be sick, steer clear. If you see someone coughing or vomiting, inform a crew member so that they can clean the mess, assess the situation, and potentially isolate that passenger.

  8. Use bottled water.

    While water is generally safe on reputable cruise lines, using bottled water to drink and brush your teeth can help you avoid getting sick should a rare water contamination occur. Always use bottled water when you are enjoying a day onshore.

If, after taking precautions, you still get sick during a cruise, go to the ship’s medical center for a consultation. If the medical team can’t treat you, you’ll probably be sent to a clinic at the next port.

If you need further assistance, make sure to call Assist America’s 24/7 Operations Center for help. A coordinator can help you find a qualified medical facility, fill a prescription at a local pharmacy, and more.

Safety First for National Safety Month

National Safety Month 2016

It’s National Safety Month, and we have some topics and tips to help you stay safe! Learn more now.

When Seconds Matter, Will You Be Ready?

Keep emergency numbers nearby
Always watch children around water
Become certified in First Aid and CPR
Preparing today can make a difference tomorrow
Safeguard Your Health

Be aware of medication interactions
Keep medicine up and away from children
Ask about alternatives to opioid painkillers
Reach for safer medicine
Watch Out for Dangers

Secure your furniture to avoid tip-overs
Fall-proof the bathrooms of older adults
Pay attention to where you are walking
Being safe means being alert - all the time
Make Good Choices While Driving

Practice driving with teens, even after they get a license
As you age, learn how health conditions affect your driving
Focus on road instead of distractions
The roads belong to us all: Let's make safe choices

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Checking Expiration Dates

Long View: Food Safety – What’s in a Date?

I was hunting for some cookies at my mom’s house, and I noticed a bottle of Tabasco® sauce in the back corner of the pantry. I wondered why she had a new bottle of something she rarely uses, and she told me she just keeps it around and had moved it from her house on Church Street.

“Gee, Mom, that was 12 years ago,” I said, and it got me thinking about expiration dates and what they mean.

I hope during this holiday season and all year long, Health Alliance Medicare members and non-members alike, pay attention to this wise advice from the experts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines the most common terms this way.

• A “sell-by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before this date.
• A “best if used by (or before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
• A “use-by” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The maker of the product determines this date.
• “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

Who knew?

Another good food safety resource is your local University of Illinois Extension office. Jenna Smith is the nutrition and wellness educator for Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties. She has a safety-first approach.

“Dates on food packaging can be very confusing,” Smith says. “But in general, most dates refer to best quality, not to food safety. When in doubt, throw it out. If the food develops an off odor, flavor or appearance, do not use it.”

As a former holder of a Food Service and Sanitation Certificate, I tend to take a very conservative approach when it comes to food safety. I especially remember some videos on the proper methods for handling raw chicken and the consequences of not maintaining the proper temperature. I didn’t eat poultry for two years.

Paying attention to safe food practices and being well informed are the best ways to be safe. I think my mom’s Tabasco sauce has transformed from a condiment to a treasured family heirloom along the way. I am OK with it for now, as long as I’m not eating it.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Health Alliance!

 

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.