The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful natural wonders, revered for its awe-inspiring layered architecture carved out by millions of years of erosion. Seeing it up close is awe-inspiring, but if you’ve been there recently, you may also puke your granola bars out of your mouth.
To be clear: a norovirus outbreak that has afflicted visitors to this magnificent natural wonder has been going on for months. At least eight rafting trips have been found to have been infected by the virus. According to the Grand Canyon National Park Service’s most recent report, more than 150 river rafters and backcountry campers have become unwell since April.
While many may have sought the grandeur of the outdoors in an effort to avoid the pandemic coronavirus, it appears that they were instead met with a different germ that has been savagely hollowing out innards at a pace many orders of magnitude faster than the Colorado River gutted the southwest section of the Colorado Plateau. Park-goers are blowing chunks from both ends in a matter of seconds among the perfectly cut buttes and finely sculpted chasms serenely created throughout time. Some visitors are compelled to stay on the edge of a much smaller basin instead of making it to both the North and South Rims throughout their time in the park.
Some tourists have been afflicted by clusters of diseases in disconnected areas of the park, making it difficult to determine how the illness is spreading. This highly contagious illness poses a serious threat to river cruises and camping trips, according to the National Park Service. From person to person, contaminated food and drink, or polluted surfaces are all ways in which the disease can be transmitted. The National Park Service recommends that visitors wash their hands frequently, avoid sharing meals, stay at home if they are sick, and isolate anyone who becomes ill while on vacation.
Gushes of water
Drinking water from the Colorado River, waterfalls, pools, streams, and side canyons, as well as getting water in your mouth while playing in these areas, is strictly prohibited by the park. During wilderness trips, canyon water sources should be treated with chemicals or brought to a rolling boil before being used by tourists.
Norovirus, despite its horrific symptoms, is not usually fatal. The National Park Service, on the other hand, is concerned that a severe case of gastroenteritis in such a physically taxing environment may quickly become deadly. An additional extreme heat warning was issued by the park on Tuesday that predicted temperatures of 110° F (43° C) in the inner canyon. Rescues by helicopter, including of sick people trapped in the canyon, have also been reported.
For those who are capable of escaping on their own, the journey will be harrowing. A sign at the entrance to Canyonlands National Park warns tourists not to leave any of the poisonous muck they spew behind. Observed by the park staff, “To dispose of human waste solids in the event that there is no restroom accessible, a portable toilet or a bag waste containment device should be used (capable of being sealed securely and containing enzymes and polymers to treat human solid waste). A sealable container should also be used to transport vomit out of the canyon, as well.”
The good news is that since the park started displaying warnings about the illnesses, the number of cases has decreased significantly. Outbreak appears to be nearing an end as most instances happened in May.