Virus Alert: 200 Sickened at Yellowstone, Grand Teton

Two of the country’s most beautiful national parks are reporting an ugly outbreak of illness.

The National Park Service is warning visitors going to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks this summer to make an extra effort to wash their hands.

In an announcement this week, the park service said 200 people, including visitors and park workers, have been stricken with norovirus, a nasty gastrointestinal illness that is highly contagious.

Those sickened were visiting the park in northwestern Wyoming as well as areas in Montana outside the two parks, CNN reports.

In one case that occurred on June 7, 50 members of a tour group visiting Mammoth Hot Springs – a part of Yellowstone located on the Montana-Wyoming border – went to park medical clinics complaining of vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Park employees who had been in contact with the group reported similar symptoms within 48 hours.

Some tested positive for norovirus - also known as the cruise-ship virus - a highly contagious illness that is spread by contact with an infected person or contaminated food, water or surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The park service said that in addition to cases of norovirus among visitors, more than 100 suspected cases among Yellowstone employees and another 50 suspected cases among Grand Teton workers have also been reported.

To protect both visitors and workers, the park service and businesses in the parks are taking special measures, including more frequent cleaning and disinfection of public areas. Park workers who show signs of infection must be symptom-free for 72 hours before returning to their duties, CNN reported.

Visitors are advised to wash their hands frequently with soap, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food.

Photo: National Park Service

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