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McLean, VA (written by Gene Sloan/USA Today) -- More than 2,500 passengers on a cruise ship sailing in Europe have received antibiotics in the wake of an outbreak of bacterial meningitis on the vessel, industry watcher Seatrade Insider reports.

Seatrade Insider says four crew members of the MSC Orchestra were diagnosed with the illness and hospitalized after the ship's arrival in Livorno, Italy on Sunday. One of the crew members is in serious condition, the news outlet says.

Seatrade Insider says the treatment of 2,723 passengers and more than 950 crew members was done as a precaution and in agreement with local maritime authorities. Members of the company's health team boarded the ship on Monday, the news outlet adds.

Characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck, bacterial meningitis is a severe illness that can lead to brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. There are about 4,100 cases a year in the United States that result in about 500 deaths, according to the most recent data.

The cases on the ship are unrelated to the current outbreak of fungal meningitis in the United States that has sickened more than 100 people.

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