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Coronavirus survived in empty Diamond Princess cruise rooms for 17 days: CDC report

The cruise ship Diamond Princess is seen docked at Yokohama Port in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, on Feb. 22, 2020, in this photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The coronavirus was reportedly still found in the rooms of infected passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship some 17 days after they disembarked from the vessel kept in quarantine at the port of Yokohama, according to a March 23 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on its website.

The virus was said to have been found on surfaces in the vacated rooms of infected passengers. Although it's unknown if objects still harboring the virus after such a time pose a risk of infection by touch or other means, the findings show it is possible that the virus can survive longer than two weeks under some conditions.

The report from the CDC collected the results of its various virus response teams and others. Based on analysis of the spread of infection on cruise ships, it warned that the risks of widespread infection are particularly high on such vessels due to their enclosed environments where large groups of passengers and crew members of various nationalities come together.

Among its findings, it stated that the virus was detected on surfaces inside rooms vacated by infected Diamond Princess passengers for up to 17 days before sterilizing methods were taken.

Reports from Japanese researchers and others published by the CDC on March 17 revealed that infections on the Diamond Princess had spread among crew members tasked with preparing and serving food to other workers and passengers. The first member of the crew to be identified as having the coronavirus was a food service worker. They developed a fever on Feb. 2, before the ship was scheduled to dock in Yokohama.

Additionally, on Feb. 9, after quarantine measures had begun on board the Diamond Princess docked at Yokohama Port, an investigation by the ship's operating company found that 31 crew members had fevers, and among them 20 were working in food service roles.

The report from the Japanese researchers and others said that until now the earliest that anyone on board was known to have shown symptoms was a passenger on Jan. 22. They were later confirmed positive. But even so this person stayed on the cruise until its arrival in waters off of Yokohama.

Reportedly, there was no identified risk of infections from the novel coronavirus on board the Diamond Princess until reports came through on Feb. 1 that a passenger who disembarked at Hong Kong on Jan. 25 tested positive, creating a time lag of at least 10 days from the first development of symptoms.

The report read, "COVID-19 was likely transmitted first from passengers to crew members and subsequently spread among the crew, especially among food service workers."

(Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Politics News Department)

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