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Recreational Water Facilities On Board the Ship

There are numerous microbiological, chemical, and physical problems that can cause disease and injury aboard cruise ships while recreational water facilities are being used. A brief discussion concerning these issues which relate primarily to cruise ships will appear here and the broader discussion plus Best Practices will be discussed below in the special section on recreational water areas, which applies to all water facilities used for recreational purposes.

Operation of flow-through seawater recreational water facilities at sea and in the port is of concern. This type of seawater supply system must be used only when the ship is at least 12 miles from the nearest land. Before arriving in port or at a harbor, the seawater recreational water facility must be drained and not refilled until the ship reaches the 12-mile mark from land.

The World Health Organization has stated that there have been over 50 outbreaks of legionellosis with hundreds of cases associated with ships between 1977 and 2000. The source of the microorganisms has varied from whirlpools to leaking boilers to ventilation systems, etc. Studies of people on cargo ships have shown a high proportion of antibodies to the organism, suggesting that people on board ships are at increased risk of the disease compared to the general communities. The risk factors aboard ship include the water quality from the original source of the water taken aboard, the residual disinfectant, the water storage and distribution systems, and the temperatures of the water upon loading into the ship. The organism can grow in both hot and cold water piped water systems. It can also grow in whirlpools, spa pools, and any of the equipment associated with these bodies of water. (See endnote 35.)

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