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Mysterious Illness on Riverboat not Caused by Bacteria

36 people taking a riverboat cruise down the Ohio River suffered flu-like symptoms last week, that were most likely caused by some virus //according to a health official on Monday.

Bacteria have been ruled out as the source of the illness, as Beth Crace, a spokeswoman for the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services said. Additional test results were still being awaited by officials.

Dr. William Hacker, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Public Health said that if those tests do not confirm the cause, cultures will be sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further analysis.

According to Hacker on Sunday the illness appeared similar to the Norwalk virus, which is a contagious although usually not a life-threatening ailment which is common aboard cruise ships and in nursing homes and schools. The symptoms caused by this virus include mild to moderate gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea that last for about 12 to 24 hours.

The passengers of the cruise ship, the Mississippi Queen who complained of being sick were examined during the weekend at a hospital in Henderson. Two of them remained hospitalized for observation on Monday. Although dozens of other passengers sought emergency room help as well they were not given admission.

Federal and state health officials have been monitoring food and hygiene practices aboard the paddlewheel riverboat that was en route from Cincinnati tho St. Louis with 525 passengers. Hacker said that the CDC sent a team to travel aboard the boat from Paducah to St. Louis.

A statement given by the Delta Queen Steamboat Co that operates the boat, canceled the last two days of the cruise Monday so that it could "conduct additional deep cleaning" without inconveniencing passengers.

Remaining passengers who continued on the cruise following the raising of health concerns were taken to hotels in St. Louis.

The company st ated that the boat would be soon ready for its next trip, which begins on Wednesday as a seven-day cruise from St. Louis to Minneapolis.


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