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Yosemite National Park Hit with Deadly Virus

— February 6, 2020

Norovirus hits popular tourist spot.

Typically a tourist hotspot, Yosemite National Park is getting a bad wrap these days after almost two hundred people who’ve visited suffered a gastrointestinal illness.  Employees have also been affected.  At least two of the cases are confirmed to be the deadly norovirus and the majority of the issues occurred earlier this month, according to a statement from officials at the national park.

Three airports in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles will start checking travelers arriving from Wuhan, China, for signs of a respiratory virus that has killed two people and left ill 45 others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The federal agency said those infected seem to have picked up the virus from animals at meat markets.  However, researchers believe that it can also spread from human to human like the deadly viruses SARS and MERS.  The CDC is working on a diagnostic test that will be sent to hospitals and state health departments to determine whether people are infected.

Norovirus commonly has been known as “the stomach bug,” leading to symptoms of acute gastroenteritis in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Usually lasting only one to four days, it can cause significant health distress if left untreated for too long, usually because it leads to severe dehydration.   There are an estimated 21 million cases every year and, because the virus is highly contagious, it most commonly spreads in crowded places.  Other than stomach symptoms, other problems include a fever, headache and body aches.

Yosemite National Park Hit with Deadly Virus
Photo by Fanny Rascle on Unsplash

Simple hand washing can stop the virus from spreading.  Washing periodically throughout the day with soap is key.  Hand sanitizer can also help.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea.”

Federal officials emphasized there are only two confirmed cases of norovirus in Yosemite National Park with the park reporting, “the overwhelming majority of the reported cases are consistent with norovirus.”

In 2017, a number of seventh-grade students from the John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica, California were exposed to the norovirus after taking a field trip to Yosemite.  Several students reported starting to get symptoms right after the trip.

“The rise in cases in China was a result of increased searching and testing for [the virus] among people sick with respiratory illness.  As more cases are identified and more analysis undertaken, we will get a clearer picture of disease severity and transmission patterns,” reported the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is a serious situation,” insisted Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “We know it is crucial to be proactive and prepared.”  Of instances in the United States to date, she added, “We believe the current risk from the virus to the general public is low.”

According to the CDC, “norovirus is an illness that affects people on a worldwide scale.  The agency reported, “Norovirus causes 685 million cases of acute gastroenteritis, making it the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide.”



170 people sickened at Yosemite National Park after likely norovirus outbreak

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