Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Maui News breaks press silence on seasickness during ferry ride

by Larry Geller

I can understand why a TV reporter would not want to admit on camera that she herself might have felt seasick.

I can't understand why the unsanitary and uncomfortable conditions reported today in the Maui News article, Ride ‘really, really rough’, were omitted by other accounts of yesterday's resumption of Superferry services to Maui.

Passengers arriving in Kahului said many of them were puking during the ride.

“The crew was really trying to keep things clean, but there were vomit bags all over the place,” said passenger Monica Bishop in describing her ferry ride.

“You open the bathroom door and there’s puke on the sink,” said Brian Driscoll, a ferry rider from Fargo, N.D., who said he was among those who avoided illness.

“There were sick people all over the place,” he said.

Maybe some of the other reporters couldn't make it to the bathroom (that's why barf bags were invented).

Maybe this information is omitted for another reason. I leave it as a question for the reader.

Kudos to the Maui News for reporting what their readers need to know and for going where other media apparently fear to tread.

The Star-Bulletin devoted a few words on the problem in the middle of their story, Few passengers set sail with Superferry’s return, so I'll include their tiny mention in the middle of mine:

"It was a great trip, great crew, great service," said Larry Jellen, 64, of Waikiki, who sailed round trip with his brother, Tom, 68, of Cleveland. Jellen said a third of the passengers got sick, according to an employee on board. "Going over was a little bumpy, but coming back was smooth."

The Advertiser said nothing. After reading the Maui News and the Star-Bulletin stories, you'd think the "paper of record" would report that many ("a third"?) of the passengers were sick. I'll forgive them if their reporter couldn't make it to the bathroom to see that sink, assuming they had a reporter on board.

Oh, my understanding is that the Barf Index for today is about the same as yesterday, I am still learning how to compute it. At the same time, the Advertiser has posted East shores under high surf advisory. So let's see how today goes, and if the papers will get around to reporting on conditions inside the ship now that they've read the Maui News' superior coverage of this issue.

Instead of silence, Honolulu media might consider learning about and posting the Barf Index as a public service to their readers. Ha!

Interestingly enough, the Barf-O-Meter or Barf Index is so far proving to be accurate. "Barf Threat Level 3 (Orange)", somewhat likely seasickness, seems to describe what happened yesterday.

Perhaps it will come to be applied to similar ferry voyages in other parts of the world. Imagine being able to check a seasickness forecast a couple of days before a planned trip and choosing to fly if things looked like they might be rough.

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Did the issue of bodily fluids, health hazzards and infectious disease come up(no pun intended) during the EIS hearings? There has to be a DOH component there somewhere; of course our DOH is asleep at the wheel like the DOT. I'm feeling nauseas already.

Brilliant minds think alike, Anonymous.

I don't know about the EIS hearings, but I'm checking with the FDA, which has jurisdiction over ships.

Although I know little about this area, nasty bugs like hepatitis can, I believe, be transmitted in vomit. It's important to know whether any ferry is practicing proper infection control procedures. Going by the newspaper reports, this sound like a concern.

It isn't a ferry issue particularly, since any ship must meet certain standards. But what to do when people face a bathroom already covered in puke?

Imagine a ferry at anything near full capacity in Hawaii's rough seas.

Interesting thoughts- nowadays hospital personnel as well as police, fire and EMT people are required to treat all bodily fluids as bio-hazards.

The Superferry is currently a floating infectious disease vector, exposing the passengers and, especially, its staff. As such it should be a no-brainer to for the DOH if not OSHA shut it down. At the very least all people aboard should be wearing bio-hazard suits.

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