The chief complaint on the trail like the AT is the Norovirus, which seems to strike every hiking season.
Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people and on infected surfaces that have been touched by ill people. Outbreaks occur more often where there are more people in a small area, such cruise ships (and AT hostels/shelters).
How noroviruses are spread
People can become infected with the virus by:
- Eating food or drinking liquids infected with noroviruses
- Touching surfaces or objects infected with noroviruses and then touching own mouth, nose, or eyes
- Having person-to-person contact (with a norovirus-infected person) by
- being present while someone is vomiting
- sharing food or eating from the same utensils
- caring for a sick person
- shaking hands
- (also) eating out of contaminated food bags or food contaminated by the virus
- Not washing hands after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.
Norovirus infections are not usually serious
Noroviruses are highly contagious, but infections are not usually serious. People may feel very sick and vomit often or get diarrhea, becoming dehydrated if lost liquids are not replaced. Most people recover within 1 or 2 days and have no long-term adverse health effects.
What to do if you get norovirus (I am adding more to this)
- Drink plenty of fluids as you tolerate it. Start with clear fluids first - like broth from Ramen, Gatorade, weak tea with a little sugar, just plain water, jello and popsicles (if you can get it). As your stomach allows, eat bland foods like crackers, white bread, Ramen noodle soup, jello if you can get it. Advance your diet very slowly. Avoid greasy and fried foods. When you can tolerate it, replace electrolytes and bacteria lost with bananas and yogurt.
- Wash hands often.
- Baby wipes can help clean irritation left from the "runs"
How to prevent getting and spreading noroviruses (and other illnesses)
- Wash hands often. Wash hands after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food. Wash hands more often when someone in your hostel/shelter is sick.
- Avoid shaking hands during outbreaks
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer along with handwashing or if facilities for handwashing are unavailable. Make sure the sanitizer is at least 70% alcohol. I recommend Purell Advanced.
- Do not eat out of another hiker's food bag (like passing the bag of GORP or bag of chips around the campsite or shelter) Be careful where you are accepting food at hiker feeds and by generous trail angels. Packaged food is best. use had sanitizer whenever possible.
- Avoiding shelter areas and other communicable spots, esp during the disease season.
- Carrying packets of Emergen C to add to water helps replace vitamins lost and can boost your immune system.
- Boost your immune system by eating good healthy foods while hiking. A balance of proteins, fats, carbs, supplemented by dried veggies and fruits is best. Avoid empty carbs and sugars. Consider also taking a vitamin supplement.