An outbreak from a yet-to-be-confirmed virus has infected at least 118 people visiting the Grand Canyon since May.
It’s believed that norovirus is the root cause, though researchers are still looking for a definite answer. And while there are no reported deaths, helicopters have had to fly in for rescue missions.
Grand Canyon officials are looking into whether contaminated water may be to blame after a spike in gastrointestinal illness among visitors to the park, specifical areas along the Colorado River.
Officials state that the number is alarming and at this rate, the virus might infect an entire river trip. A huge number of them tested positive for Norovirus.
Travelers going on a Colorado trip recently have been tested positive. Among them, there are also people who have gone on backpack trips. The team has also gone on the Grand Canyon National remote backcountry trip. Cases began to rise on June 10. Joelle Baird, a public affairs official cracked the news on Friday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Norovirus is extremely contagious and it can infect people in a blink of an eye. The virus can spread with coughing or with the help of contaminated food and water.
The officials also state that there is a geographical angle to this spread as well but the identification of the cause is yet to be done. Since Grand Canyon is one of the most popular destinations globally it is really important to sort the issue as fast as possible for the health of travelers.
The alert stated, “There may have been a time when it was safe to use such sources, but no longer. Any untreated water has the potential to cause illness if it is not properly and carefully disinfected.”
Here’s an excerpt from an update on the illness alert Saturday by The National Park Service:
The National Park Service Office of Public Health has received reports of gastrointestinal illness among >150 private and commercial river rafters and back-country campers during April and May 2022. Symptoms include nausea, stomach cramping/pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms are consistent with norovirus, and we have confirmed norovirus from at least eight rafting trips.
Comprehensive control measures have been implemented, and since early June, there has been a marked decrease in reports of illness. We are continuing to monitor and investigate the situation in collaboration with partners at Coconino County Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus – you can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food and water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Norovirus causes sudden-onset vomiting and diarrhea that lasts 1–3 days. On rafts and in camps, norovirus can spread quickly. The best way to prevent norovirus is to practice proper hand washing and general cleanliness and ensure the safety of your drinking water.
Fox News gives us more details of this outbreak:
Kristi Key of Arizona, an avid hiker who visits the park regularly, recounted to Fox News Digital how she recently helped summon a rescue helicopter after she saw a hiker on the Boucher Trail who was “violently vomiting.”
“I was on a solo hike on Boucher Trail, which is a pretty rugged trail,” she said, noting she has hiked it several times.
On May 14, 2022, she said she “got about four miles in when I came across a hiker looking a little distressed,” she told Fox News Digital.
“It’s not unusual [for people] to look distressed or exhausted hiking out of the canyon — so I didn’t think much of it, but I asked if he was OK and I kept going.”
Key added that she then “ran into another guy behind him — and he was asking how the trail was on the way out, and I told him it’s not easy. He said he had a couple of people that were pretty sick and he wanted to know how rough it would be for them.”
“At that point,” said Key, “it was starting to get really hot. I had my Garmin [smartwatch] with me and I asked him if he needed me to hit the SOS button, which alerts Garmin and hooks you up with a rescue if needed, because there is no cell service on the trail.”
“One was lying down under a tree,” she said.
The other one “was throwing up, so I told them I could get them rescued but they said no, they’d rest and cool off and said if they needed me they’d find me.”
Key said she went on her way for about an hour — and “then started making my way back. I saw the guys again and that’s when they asked if I could summon that rescue. They didn’t have much water left, and it was still quite a ways back out of the canyon. One of the guys kept violently throwing up.”
Key said she used her Garmin to send an alert and heard back “almost immediately.”