Help Prevent the Spread of Highly Contagious "Stomach Bug" (Norovirus) - May 2013
Cases of Norovirus were confirmed this spring among Appalachian Trail (A.T.) hikers in Tennessee and North Carolina, with the greatest number of cases from north of Hot Springs to the Nolichucky River. A few hikers reported similar symptoms in central Virginia. The highly contagious "stomach bug" causes your stomach and/or intestines to become inflamed, which leads to stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea.
Norovirus is transmitted by contact with an infected person, contaminated food or water, or contaminated surfaces. The virus has a 12 to 48-hour incubation period and lasts 24 to 60 hours. Infected hikers may be contagious for 3 days to 2 weeks after recovery; the virus may be present in water sources, soil, or certain surfaces for extended periods.
Outbreaks occur more often where people share untreated water sources and facilities for sleeping, dining, showering, and toileting. The virus can spread rapidly in crowded shelters and hostels.
Sanitation is key to avoiding and spreading Norovirus.
Take the following steps to prevent contracting and spreading the illness:
- Treat all water by boiling, treating with chlorine, iodine, or chlorine dioxide (Aquamira), or a combination of filtering and chemicals. To learn how best to treat your water, visit: www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/travel/backcountry_water_treatment.html
- Do not eat out of the same food bag, share utensils, or drink from other hikers' water bottles.
- Wash your hands with biodegradable soap (200' from water sources) before eating or preparing food and after toileting.
- Be aware that alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be ineffective against Norovirus.
- Bury human waste 6-8” deep in soil (200’ from water sources) where privies are not available.
- If you develop symptoms of stomach illness, keep hydrated, avoid direct contact with others, and avoid contaminating surfaces. Seek medical treatment if symptoms persist more than a few days. Remember that even after you feel better, you still may be carrying the virus and it can be transmitted to others.
- Report cases of stomach virus to email@example.com; even second-hand reports are helpful. A report form can be downloaded from www.appalachiantrail.org/incidents
For more information visit: www.cdc.gov/norovirus