Backpackers must wash hands, say medics after vomiting bug hits Grand Canyon

Backpacker with stomach ache
(Image credit: Getty)

Outdoor enthusiasts must practice better hand hygiene, a public health and epidemiology expert has said following a serious outbreak of norovirus at Grand Canyon National Park. Between April and June this year, over 200 hikers and rafters were struck down by vomiting and diarrhea.

The outbreak, recorded between April 1 and June 17, was the biggest recorded outbreak of acute gastroenteritis ever recorded at the park. According to Healio, a news site for healthcare professionals, preliminary research suggests it was caused by norovirus, which spreads easily between people and via contaminated surfaces.

The virus can stay on hard surfaces for days or weeks, and can be spready by touching unwashed surfaces then putting your hands near your face or mouth, or touching containers and or utensils that will be used for food.

"If your patients are avid hikers, backpackers, rafters or general outdoor enthusiasts, help them understand how to prevent norovirus by practicing good hand hygiene and staying home if they become sick," said Ariella P Dale, PhD, of the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service and co-author of a study on the outbreak.

"Even after feeling better, people who were sick should consider delaying an outdoor trip, as ill persons can shed virus for up to 48 hours after symptoms resolve.”

The Center for Disease Control has released a video (below) explaining how to safely clean up after someone with norovirus to avoid spreading it.

Although hundreds of cases of vomiting and diarrhea were reported at the park during the survey period, far more people were probably affected. It can be particularly dangerous for people over the age of 65, and causes approximately 900 deaths in the US each year.

"This outbreak reminds us how important practicing good hand hygiene with soap and water is, as well as staying home if you become sick is, for preventing norovirus outbreaks," said Dale and her colleagues.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.