A norovirus outbreak in Yellowstone now has more than 100 cases. The outbreak began on June 7 when members of a tour group in Mammoth Hot Springs complained of stomach flu and other GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms.
Within 48 hours, several park employees with direct contact with tourists reported symptoms as well. Tests on both park visitors and employees were positive for norovirus.
In the past week, more than 100 suspected cases have popped up among employees in Yellowstone, along with 50 cases among employees at Grand Teton National Park. The park service also stated that about 50 Yellowstone visitors attended medical clinics because of GI symptoms.
To date, Yellowstone has seen more than 100 suspected cases of norovirus in employees. The disease can be contracted through direct contact with an already infected person, by touching contaminated surfaces, or by eating or drinking contaminated food and drinks.
To combat the norovirus outbreak, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks have advised visitors and employees to wash their hands frequently, especially after eating or preparing food. If water isn’t readily available, the park service advised to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Physician’s assistant Michael Takagi stated that the norovirus outbreak is one of the most significant ones he has seen in his career. Al Nash, a spokesman for Yellowstone National Park, added, “It’s been almost a decade since we’ve seen anything on this scale here.”
Several precautions are now being taken by the National Park Service and other businesses that serve park visitors to limit the spread of the norovirus at Yellowstone an Grand Teton. A statement by the NPS explained:
“These include increased cleaning and disinfection of all public areas including stores, gift shops, restaurants, and lodging facilities, and isolation of potentially infected employees until they have been symptom-free for at least 72 hours.”
About 70,000 people are hospitalized with norovirus in the United States each year. Of those, about 800 die of the illness. It is not yet clear when the outbreak at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks will end.
[Image via Guerillero]