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Published On: Thu, Jun 20th, 2013

Norovirus outbreak expands in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, at least 200 people sickened

In a follow up to a story last week, the norovirus outbreak that struck 30 Yellowstone National Park employees on June 7, has grown to some 200 people from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and areas outside the national parks in Montana.

Image/U.S. National Park Service

Image/U.S. National Park Service

According to a posting on the Yellowstone National Park’s Facebook page yesterday, The National Park Service is urging visitors to northwestern Wyoming to be vigilant about hand washing while on vacation, due to greater-than-normal reports of gastrointestinal (GI) illness in the above areas.

On June 7, several members of a tour group arrived in Mammoth Hot Springs complaining of stomach flu and other GI symptoms. Within 48 hours, numerous employees, whose jobs place them in direct contact with visitors, reported similar symptoms. Tests conducted on some of the sick visitors and employees came back positive for norovirus, the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S.

Over the past week, additional cases of GI illness among visitors and employees have been reported at both national parks. To date, those reports include over 100 suspected cases of norovirus among employees in Yellowstone and about 50 suspected cases among employees in Grand Teton. Fifty visitors also went to medical clinics within Yellowstone with symptoms of gastrointestinal illness.

While only a small percentage of people have been affected, the National Park Service and all the businesses serving park visitors have instituted a variety of precautions intended to limit the spread of the virus. 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.

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu,” or gastroenteritis in people.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults do.

Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typicallyspread through contaminated food and water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.

The highly contagious norovirus is the second leading infectious cause of gastroenteritis-associated deaths accounting for 800 annually. Norovirus causes more than 20 million illnesses annually, and it is the leading cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Biological Hazard – State of Wyoming, [Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park] : 200 park employees and visitors reported bouts of gastrointestinal illness at Yellowstone National Park and nearby Grand Teton National Park this month says:

    […] Norovirus outbreak expands in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, at least 200 people sicken… (theglobaldispatch.com) […]

  2. National Parks Raise Guard Against Virus – New York Times | THN says:

    […] employees in gloves were handing out plates and serving eggs and French toast. National …Norovirus outbreak expands in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, at …The Global Dispatch ch_client = "fryedaddy"; ch_width = 300; ch_height = 250; ch_type = "mpu"; […]

  3. National Parks Raise Guard Against Virus – New York Times | HNH says:

    […] employees in gloves were handing out plates and serving eggs and French toast. National …Norovirus outbreak expands in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, at …The Global Dispatch Norovirus Outbreak at Yellowstone Highlights Camping Health HazardsABC […]

  4. National Parks Raise Guard Against Virus – New York Times | HNP says:

    […] employees in gloves were handing out plates and serving eggs and French toast. National …Norovirus outbreak expands in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, at …The Global Dispatch ch_client = "fryedaddy"; ch_width = 300; ch_height = 250; ch_type = "mpu"; […]

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