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WJBD - Health & Fitness News - Outbreak at Yellowstone Sickens Campers, Employees

Outbreak at Yellowstone Sickens Campers, Employees

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo.) -- Those heading on a camping trip this summer might want to be just as wary of crossing paths with the wrong bacteria as they would a hungry bear.

After 200 park employees and visitors reported bouts of gastrointestinal illness at Yellowstone National Park and nearby Grand Teton National Park this month, national park officials have warned visitors to be vigilant about hygiene.

The outbreak started on June 7, when a group touring the Mammoth Hot Springs complained of stomach flu and other gastrointestinal problems. After the tour group members reported their illnesses, about other 50 visitors and 150 park employees reported similar symptoms.

Preliminary reports found that they had norovirus, or "stomach flu," which affects up to 21 million people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Al Mash, spokesman for Yellowstone National Park, said campers who were worried about the outbreak should take care to properly store their food and wash their hands with soap and water before eating. "Don't rely on hand sanitizer. It's good for a while if you don't have access to water," said Mash. "But sanitizer is a poor second to washing your hands."

According to the CDC, the norovirus can be very contagious and is usually passed from contaminated surfaces or food.

Mash said that while it might be more difficult to wash hands before and after meals on camping trips, sporting goods stores sell soap slivers or biodegradable soap that can be used on camping trips.

Employees at Yellowstone and nearby Grand Teton park have been cleaning and disinfecting the areas where the illnesses were first reported. Yellowstone National Park regularly has 20,000 visitors a day.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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