While the worst viral outbreak to strike hikers in Appalachian Trail history is traveling north from Georgia into Pennsylvania, health officials say there is really no reason for area residents to be concerned.
Bob Proudman, director of conservation operations for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, said an outbreak of norovirus among trail hikers began somewhere around the Tennessee-North Carolina border about four weeks ago and is moving north with the hikers.
Norovirus has a 12- to 48-hour incubation period, lasts 24 to 60 hours and may cause severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.
Signs are being posted along the Appalachian Trail south of Maryland. Signs read "A.T. shelters and privies may have been used by sick hikers" and information includes ways to "help prevent spread of highly contagious 'stomach bug'":
- Wash hands with soap and water.
- Treat all water. Use best "leave-no-trace" practices.
- (Alcohol-based) hand sanitizers may not be effective against the stomach bug.
- Stomach bug has a 12- to 48-hour incubation period, lasts 24 to 60 hours and may cause severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.
- People with stomach bug may be contagious for three days to two weeks after recovery.
I've previously posted about drinking Potomac River water--treated of course--here. The treating agent was bleach, but of course since I am not a public health expert you must take my story for what is is--a personal anecdote, and not definitive advice.
I've never succumbed to any such illnesses but I've had some severe influenza, which kinda gives me the idea. We all tend to get complacent about basic precautions with our food and drink, so the bottom line is that it's time to assume it could happen to me, and take appropriate precautions.