Mississippi Queen stops in Cape Girardeau with more sick passengers

Mississippi Queen stops in Cape Girardeau with more sick passengers
By: Tiffany Sisson

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO -- Food and hygiene practices aboard the Mississippi Queen are the focus of an investigation for both federal and state health officials. At least 36 passengers complained of flu-like symptoms this past weekend, forcing the boat to make an unexpected stop in Henderson, Kentucky. Some people were hospitalized. Now, health officials are running tests, trying to find out what caused the contagious symptoms that are common among cruises, nursing homes, and schools.
That same riverboat docked along the river at Cape Girardeau today. Heartland News caught up with some of them as they stepped off the boat.
"We were seeing people being put off the boat," exclaimed De'Etta O'Connel.
When De'Etta and Bill O'Connel stepped on to the Delta Queen, stopping at a hospital in Henderson, Kentucky was not on their agenda. "You think maybe you're gonna be next. We didn't want that to happen. We didn't want to end up in Henderson, KY for Lord sakes,' said De'Etta O'Connel.
Most thought the illnesses were isolated cases of the flu. "There were maybe another 30 people who left. Next thing you know, you go down in the morning, and you see all the bags laid out, people leaving. You know, pretty hairy," explained Bill.
The O'Connels started to see even more distinct differences. "We had a table for 8 for dinner. We ended up, my wife and I were sitting there last night. That was all that's left," said Bill.
The commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Health says the non-life threatening illness appears similar to Norwalk virus. It's contagious, has a quick incubation period, and causes mild to moderate gastrointestinal problems.
Alvin Manger, a passenger from Baltimore, Maryland, was spared the symptoms. "This is a natural thing, and it's just gonna happen. If I wanna move around this world and do things, I expect problems once in a while," said Manger.
"The greatest thing, you sit down, and say you're here. Then when you're leaving someone, you say hope to see you in the morning," said Bill.
De'Etta chimed in, "You woke up in the morning, and if you feel good you go ahhh, hallelujah, we're still here."
The Queen heads to St. Louis next. If preliminary tests don't confirm the cause, cultures would be sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further tests.