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Princess Cruises ship returns early for fog, ill passengers aboard

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A Princess Cruises ship, owned by Carnival Corp, will be met by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team that will investigate an outbreak of a virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea when it rolls into the port of Houston on Friday, a day early after the trip was cut short by fog, the company said.

The Caribbean Princess, with about 3,100 passengers and 1,150 crew members will be sanitized before its next scheduled departure on February 1, the company said.

"Approximately three passengers have current active symptoms of norovirus, and over the course of the cruise 165 passengers reported ill to the medical center," it said in a statement.

The outbreak comes after a Royal Caribbean cruise ship this week cut short its Caribbean cruise after more than 600 people became sick with a gastrointestinal illness.

The Royal Caribbean cruise line said it believes the illnesses are consistent with norovirus, a highly contagious virus spread from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC spokesman Llelwyn Grant said two CDC vessel sanitation and health officers will board the ship in Houston to investigate the outbreak and the response of the ship's management.

Specimens will be sent to CDC labs for testing.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Bernard Orr)

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