Montana News

Jun 19, 2013 11:53 PM by MTN News - Billings

NPS issues warning after spike in sicknesses

BILLINGS - The National Park Service has issued a warning to visitors of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks after reports of gastrointestinal illness (GI) have hit higher than normal numbers.

Reports of GI have also occurred in areas outside the parks in northwestern Wyoming and Montana.

The outbreak is believed to have started on June 7 when a tour group arrived in Mammoth Hot Springs and complained of stomach flu-one GI symptom-as well as other GI symptoms.

Employees who had direct contact with the group reported similar symptoms within 48 hours. Tests on some of the visitors and employees came back positive for norovirus, a common cause of GI in the U.S.

Reports include over 100 suspected cases of norovirus at Yellowstone among employees and 50 suspected cases among employees in Grand Teton. On top of that, 50 visitors to the parks have reported symptoms of GI.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that norovirus is not usually serious, with most people recovering in 1 to 2 days, but is very contagious. Stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea are common symptoms of GI.

National Park Service officials are urging all people in and around the parks to take extra precautionary measures while visiting, including frequent hand-washing and isolation from others until symptom-free for at least 72 hours.

Businesses in the parks are working in conjunction with NPS to take special steps to stop the spread the virus including isolating sick employees and cleaning and disinfecting public areas.

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