A highly contagious gastrointestinal illness is once again sickening river runners rafting the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.
According to United States Public Health Service reports, five concessionaire river running trips had outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses in May of this year, impacting 23 individuals. Apparently there have been no reports of infection on noncommercial river trips this season.
Samples taken from ill individuals on two of the commercial river trips confirmed that Norovirus was the cause of the illness. Norovirus, a highly contagious illness, is suspected in the majority of the other river trips.
Norovirus is not uncommon on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. An estimated 100 river passengers fell ill with the virus during a two month period during the 2005 summer season alone.
Although the exact transmission mechanism(s) has not been identified, River runners are reminded that simple precautions can go a long way to decrease the chances of catching this very contagious disease. The following are precautions recommended by the Public Health Service:
Treat all drinking water not obtained from a potable source with both filtration and then chlorine.
All hand wash water should be chlorinated as well. It is possible that river runners are becoming ill due to Norovirus in the Colorado River water.
Additionally, chlorine should be added to the first as well as the last bucket in the standard four bucket dish line.
Bare hand contact with all ready to eat food such as nuts, cookies and other salty snack food should be avoided.
Finally, river runners are reminded to wash their hands after using the toilet and before eating, where many hands will come into contact with items such as ketchup bottles, salt and pepper shakers, and other multi-use single container items.