Avoiding cruise ship bugs; arthritic knees

Created date

August 22nd, 2019
Dr. Joel Posner is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary diseases, and geriatrics. Posner joined Maris Grove in June 2009.

Dr. Joel Posner is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary diseases, and geriatrics. Posner joined Maris Grove in June 2009.

Q: How can we protect ourselves from the gastric illnesses that seem to run rampant on cruise ships?

A: The gastrointestinal infections that plague cruise ships are most often caused by the extremely contagious norovirus. It can contaminate surfaces, food, and water, and it only takes exposure to a few particles to make you sick. It can also live for a long time—some studies show that people can still spread the virus for two weeks or more after symptoms have mostly resolved. Because of the main symptoms, which are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, the main risk is dehydration. Older adults can become dehydrated quickly, so if you become sick, make sure you take small sips of fluids throughout the day. Clear liquids such as broth, gelatin, and frozen pops are good sources, but try ice chips if nothing else will stay down. See a medical provider if you can’t take anything by mouth for two days or more—you may need anti-nausea medicine or intravenous fluids. 

The best strategy is to avoid norovirus altogether. The only effective protection is thorough and vigorous handwashing with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds (the “Happy Birthday” song twice over). Hand sanitizers have been shown to be less effective, but if they are your only option, cover your entire hand, including your nails. 

Q: I have arthritis and my knees get swollen every now and then, which makes it very hard to get around. How can I prevent this?

A: When fluid builds up around knee joints, it can be due to too much activity, an injury (such as a torn ligament), an infection, or in the case of arthritis, the disease process itself. You should first see your doctor to make sure arthritis is the only cause. If so, you may be prescribed medications to reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Your doctor or a physical therapist can recommend exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee, which help reduce stress on the joints. With activity, the trick is to avoid continuous weight-bearing stress on the knees, so swimming or other pool exercises are ideal. Carrying extra weight can also stress knee joints, so your doctor may suggest that you lose a few pounds. It is very important to treat this problem because it can lead to weakening of the muscles and a decline in overall quality of life because you can’t be active.


Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. Dr. Posner received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt., and his medical degree from the University of Montpellier in Montpellier, France. He completed his internship at St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal, Canada, and his residency at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Posner also completed a fellowship in pulmonary medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pa. He is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary diseases, and geriatrics. Posner joined Maris Grove in June 2009.

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