Health Canada says an international cruise ship set to dock in Halifax Thursday morning is carrying 20 sick passengers. The infected passengers have been infected with a gastrointestinal illness, most commonly known as the stomach flu.

In an email sent to News 95.7 Wednesday afternoon, Health Canada wrote:

“Health Canada is aware of cases of gastrointestinal illness aboard the Holland America cruise vessel “Veendam”.  Upon entering Canadian waters, all international cruise ships are required to report their gastrointestinal illness (GI) rates to Health Canada.  

It is not unusual to have some cases of gastrointestinal illness during a cruise.  When the cumulative number of GI cases is greater than 2% of passengers or crew, Health Canada takes intervention measures and works in collaboration with the cruise ship operator to mitigate the risk to the other passengers or crew by ensuring the cruise ship has implemented their outbreak prevention procedures (i.e. increased cleaning and sanitation, the isolation of ill passengers, and 12-hour reporting of cases to Health Canada).  

If the number of cases is greater than 3% of passengers or crew, Health Canada may conduct an investigation. As per protocol, Health Canada will continue to monitor gastrointestinal illness aboard the vessel.  Currently, the rate of gastrointestinal illness among the passengers and crew is well below outbreak status (ie: 3% cumulative rates among the passengers and crew).”

Health Canada spokesman Stephane Shank says there is no need for the public to be concerned.

“Gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships are a routine occurrence,” he says. “There’s no public health risk to the general population. The affected passengers that are reported to the ship’s medical staff are isolated on board the vessel and would not be permitted to disembark.”

Last month, two waterfront restaurants had to shut down temporarily because several customers and staff members became infected with a Norwalk type virus. It’s believed the virus stemmed from a cruise ship that was docked in the Halifax Harbour.