Mention cruising and most people think of the romance of the Caribbean, river cruises in Europe, sailing the Nile or the once in a lifetime experience of a world cruise. Unfortunately for the cruise industry, many more people immediately associate cruising with vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, chills, headache, muscle aches, nausea, and tiredness!
These are the common symptoms of the Norovirus, a group of viruses (previously known as Norwalk-like viruses) that can affect the stomach and intestines. They are responsible for an unpleasant, but rarely serious, gastroenteric illness and are almost exclusively linked with cruise ships in the public imagination. The recently launched Cirrus 3 "Fresh Air Machine" could be just the boost the Cruise industry needs to assuage passenger's health concerns. It's an advanced biotechnology product and not just another air filter or purifier. It doesn't need to process any of the air in a room to decontaminate the environment. The unique technology contained in the Cirrus 3 generates a continual stream of free radicals of oxygen called hydroxyl radicals, exactly as are found in the outdoor natural environment, to destroy any harmful bacteria and viruses in the air or on surfaces.
Cirrus 3 could also be of tremendous benefit to several sectors, such as nursing homes, restaurants, transport termini, schools and colleges or hotels. Cruise ships remain the perceived hotbed of Norovirus infection, even though it's extremely common (second only to the incidence of the common cold) on land as well as sea. One reason Norovirus may be so associated with cruise travel is simply because, unlike hotels or land-based resorts, health officials are legally required to track illnesses on ships. Outbreaks on board a cruise ship are therefore more likely to be reported and get publicity.
Noroviruses are spread by eating food or drinking liquids prepared by someone infected with the virus, touching contaminated surfaces or objects or having person-to-person contact. The necessarily close living quarters on board a cruise ship may increase the amount of group contact and new passenger arrivals can spread the virus to the other passengers and crew. So it's not the ships that are "sick" it's the people on board them. Preventative measures recommended to date have centred on washing the hands often, especially after using the bathroom or before preparing and eating food. Contact with other people is also discouraged during outbreaks.
To that armoury of preventative measures could be added these compact "Fresh Air Machines", small enough to fit in individual cabins or in dining areas and effective enough to provide complete protection by killing bugs across the entire vessel. Cirrus 3 mechanically recreates the biocide effects of outside fresh air by generating ozone which is then catalysed by UV light and mixed with aromatic hydrocarbons (supplied by plant life in natural fresh air) from a replaceable terpene cartridge to generate a stream of hydroxyl radicals from the device. Cirrus 3 destroys viruses and bacteria using essentially the same mechanism that white blood cells such as neutrophils employ to kill invading pathogens in the body's immune defence system.
The hydroxyl radicals constantly generated by Cirrus 3 creates a 'cascade' reaction in the air that quickly diffuses through the cabin. Any quenched or spent radicals are continuously replaced by the system, providing a constant background protection for any people present. The hydroxyl radical cascade condenses onto particles of mucus ejected when someone sneezes for example and rapidly destroys the virus within minutes. An added bonus is the fact that this same condensation effect takes place on contaminated surfaces, killing bacteria such as MRSA on those surfaces too in a matter of hours.
This device on its own of course is no substitute for the sensible precautions already taken on board most cruise liners, but the addition of a "Fresh Air Machine" in every cabin or in public areas on board a vessel will allow cruise operators to assure their passengers of an even higher level of protection against any illness that might otherwise spoil what should be a dream trip.