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Grand Canyon warns of gastrointestinal illness among river trips and backcountry campers

The Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

The Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. – The National Park Service is warning visitors of possible gastrointestinal illness among river users and backcountry campers within Grand Canyon National Park, after receiving increasing reports over the past month.

The park has confirmed norovirus from at least one rafting trip. Reported symptoms include nausea, stomach cramping/pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

Norovirus, and other GI illnesses are contagious and can be contracted from an infected person, contaminated food and water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Norovirus and other GI illnesses cause sudden-onset vomiting and diarrhea that spreads quickly. The best way to prevent norovirus is proper hand washing and general cleanliness and ensure the safety of your drinking water, according to the NPS Office of Public Health.

The National Park Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the illnesses and stated they are working in collaboration with Coconino County Health and Human Services to ensure proper prevention measures are in place.

The park has asked the public follow the following measures to prevent norovirus transmission on future trips:

• If you are ill or have been ill within the last 72 hours, do not join a group trip. If you become sick, stay away from others and keep your distance from anyone in your group who is ill.

• Wash your hands regularly, particularly before and after using the toilet and before eating meals. Handwashing with potable or treated water and soap is preferable to using hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer should have at least 70 percent alcohol. Ensure hands are appropriately dried with a clean paper towel.

•Avoid sharing food and drinks and putting your hands into shared food sources. Pour food into individual plates/bowls and do not share food, plates, cups, or utensils. Don’t touch the nozzle of water dispensers.

• Ensure water is not only filtered, but also chemically disinfected, as point-of-use filters will not remove norovirus from your water. Alternatively, boil your water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. More information on safe drinking water is available here: grca/planyourvisit/safe-water.htm

• During visits to water features throughout the canyon (e.g., waterfalls, pools, streams, side canyons) do not drink from non-potable water sources.

More information is available at

Further questions should be directed to Grand Canyon National Park Public Health Service Officer, LCDR Ronan F. King at or (202) 891-8599

Information provided by NPS

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