GCPBA Rivernews -- Norovirus in GC - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-17-2012   #1
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,011
GCPBA Rivernews -- Norovirus in GC

Norovirus on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park

(The following is from Brian Bloom, River District Ranger and addresses the
problem of norovirus spread and cnntamination)

BACKGROUND: Norovirus is a very contagious virus that infects over 20 million
people in the US every year. You can get norovirus from an infected person,
contaminated food and water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Norovirus
causes sudden-onset vomiting and diarrhea that lasts about 24-48 hours. On rafts
and in camps, norovirus can spread quickly. The best way to prevent norovirus is
to practice proper hand washing and general cleanliness.

Each season, there are multiple river trips that are affected by norovirus. So
far in 2012, the number of infected trips is about average. Large outbreaks of
norovirus can be prevented if you do the following:

BEFORE AN OUTBREAK: Trip participants may bring norovirus from home or from
their travels. Many people who carry norovirus do not have symptoms. You may not
be able to prevent the first case of norovirus on your trip, but you can prevent
its spread by practicing good health habits from day one.

Handwashing: Explain and enforce good handwashing habits in your group. Use
hand sanitizer post-wash.

Food service: Offer hand sanitizer on the boat before serving snacks. If you are
sharing something from a common bag or box (e.g. trail mix), have everyone pour
the contents into their hands, rather than reaching into the bag/box. At meals,
encourage everyone to wash their hands before eating.

Drinking water: Make sure no one touches the nozzle of water dispensers. Wipe
the nozzle with bleach solution twice a day. If you are filtering water from the
river, remember that norovirus is tiny and can pass through filters. Treat
drinking water (2-5 drops of bleach per gallon of water) and set aside for at
least 30 minutes before using.

Setting up camp: When you enter a camp, observe whether it appears to have been
occupied by ill people recently. Cat-holes, vomit, etc., may indicate a sick
trip before you. Be careful about where you set up your tents, toilets, chairs,
and kitchen. Avoid setting up sleeping camps in questionable areas. Assume that
norovirus contamination may be present at all beaches and take appropriate

Wear eye protection (e.g. sunglasses) and two pairs of disposable gloves. Before
putting on gloves squirt a small dollop of hand soap on the back of one of your
hands for hand washing afterwards
Don’t use toilet brushes. They carry contamination.
Keep bleach solution in the toilet kit to disinfect the toilet seat, toilet box,
and handles. Don’t use the same bottle for your dish-wash/potable water – have a
separate bleach bottle for toilets.
After you properly store the toilet seat in a separate plastic bag in the toilet
kit and place the toilet lid back on the toilet, remove and discard the outer
pair of disposable gloves.
Wipe down the hand soap, toilet “key”, toilet paper container, etc. with the
bleach solution, using a disposable paper towel.
Lastly, take off your gloves, and use the dollop of soap on the back of your
hand to wash hands thoroughly at the hand wash station followed by a hand

Supplies: If someone is sick, make a bleach solution (5-25 tablespoons per
gallon of water) each day. Do not use this for food surfaces or hand-washing. It
is for cleaning contaminated non-food surfaces only.

“Spill” clean-up: Try to avoid putting vomit or feces in the river. Don’t leave
vomit or feces on a beach, and don’t bury it. Put it in a toilet or trash
container. If you use a trash container, use extra trash bags to close and seal
the vomit away. If you use a toilet, reserve that toilet for sick people only.

If you don’t have room to carry all the vomit or feces with you on the rest of
the trip, scoop it into a five-gallon bucket, and saturate it with the bleach
solution as specified above. After 15-20 minutes, throw it into the main current
of the river and rinse the bucket with the bleach solution, This is meant to be
last resort if a trip is incapable of containing it otherwise. (Try to limit any
damage to resources during clean-up, especially if you’re in an archeological

Isolate ill individuals and gear: Have ill people sit on the same boat or same
area of a rig. Wash the boat and other potentially contaminated equipment
frequently with the bleach solution. If clothing is soiled with vomit or feces,
store it in a dry, labeled bag. Paco pads, tents, etc. must stay with the people
who were sick for the rest of the trip. Have sick people stay in the same area
of camp, if possible.

Toilets: Consider taking extra disposable toilet bags (“wag bags”) to provide
for participants to use in camp or in case of sudden emergency. If you have
day-tripper ammo cans, consider creating an additional one (or two) for sick
Set up a “sick” toilet and hand-washing area for those who are ill or recovering
If feces or vomit are on the toilet seat or on the outside of the toilet box,
clean with a bleach wipe, discard it in the toilet, and then rinse the surface
with the bleach solution. Wipe with a disposable paper towel and dispose in
Never wash off fecal material in the river or side tributaries. Get it into a
Food preparation: If you have an ill participant, enhance food prep safety.
Make every effort to have only people who have not been sick in the previous two
weeks prepare food. Wash your hands more frequently followed by a hand
sanitizer. Wear non-latex disposable gloves. Have someone who does not have
symptoms serve all food so only one person touches serving utensils. Serve sick
people separately. Do not save unused food. Wipe down the outsides of
condiment containers with a weak bleach solution (1-2 teaspoons of bleach per
gallon of water).

Reporting: Please report any trip with gastrointestinal illness to the National
Park Service after the trip, using the form in your private trip regulations,
12 to 25 Day Noncommercial River Trips: Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek - Grand Canyon National Park
Reporting will help the National Park Service learn more about norovirus and how
to prevent it for future river runners. If you rented gear from a private trip
outfitter, tell them that you had illness on the trip so they can take extra
care in cleaning your returned gear.

After the trip: The National Park Service may ask you to hold your toilets for
testing at the end of the trip. Sanitize all equipment using the bleach solution
or hot water > 140 degrees. Launder sleeping bags and other soft goods in hot
water and hot dry. Don’t forget to clean all items that have hard surfaces, such
as the ammo can that holds your library.

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Old 08-22-2012   #2
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 930
More Sickening Details

August 22, 2012

A Norwalk-like virus, causing severe nausea and diarrhea, has caused difficulties for Grand Canyon river runners again this year. In the heat of the Canyon, river runners impacted by this illness are at risk for dehydration.

Recent reports are of a Norovirus spreading among river runners on several river trips, in one instance sickening everyone on a concessions trip except two crew members. Outbreaks of the illness were also reported in 2005 and again in 2010.

Although the exact transmission mechanism has not been identified in this incidence, river runners are reminded that simple precautions can go a long way to decrease the chances of catching this very contagious disease. It is known to spread through the air, as well as by contacting contaminated food and surfaces. An infected person can be contagious even without symptoms or before showing symptoms.

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 since the virus is too small to be filtered out.

All hand wash water should be chlorinated. It is possible that river runners are becoming ill due to Norovirus in the Colorado River water. Hand sanitizers alone are not sufficient to kill the viral cells.

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.

River Runners for Wilderness has received an advisory from the National Park Service with suggestions for what actions to take should a Norwalk-like illness impact a river trip. That information is posted here:

Illness on the Water - Rafting Grand Canyon

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Old 08-22-2012   #3
Evergreen, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 187
Thanks for the information. We are launching September 3, so we'll just have to be careful, wash our hands well, and be sure not to pick our noses.
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Old 08-22-2012   #4
don't bogart that
rpludwig's Avatar
Frosted Flakes N of Baytuckey, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 185
Chlorine Dosage

Four Corners river sports sells a product called the river water treatment plant that has the coagulation chemical and the proper chlorine dosages for river application. Or bring extra vodka
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Old 08-22-2012   #5
hojo's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 1,235
Originally Posted by rpludwig View Post
Four Corners river sports sells a product called the river water treatment plant that has the coagulation chemical and the proper chlorine dosages for river application. Or bring extra vodka
AND! AND bring extra vodka.
On the river, I can abandon who I am and what I've done. However brief it lasts, while on the river I am nothing important and everything insignificant. I am flotsam, and happy to be so.
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Old 08-22-2012   #6
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,859
Admin note - threads on same topic merged.
Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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