Grand Canyon River Runners Sickened; Norovirus Suspected

Grand Canyon River Runners Sickened; Norovirus Suspected

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PHOENIX (AP) -- Northern Arizona authorities are trying to determine the source of tainted food that has sickened about 100 people on Colorado River tour boat trips during the past month.

Adam Kramer, a public-health specialist for the National Park Service, said Tuesday that the gastrointestinal illness has affected tourists on 12 different trips with five tour companies, all based in Utah.

Park Service officials identified the tour companies involved as Western River Expeditions, Colorado River and Trail Expeditions and Moki Mac River Expeditions of Salt Lake City; Grand Canyon Expeditions of Kanab and Hatch River Expeditions of Vernal.

Kramer said one sample analyzed so far tested positive for norovirus.

An outbreak of norovirus, a group of viruses that cause the stomach flu which typically lasts for 24 to 48 hours, at a wrestling camp at Northern Arizona University in July forced the NFL's Arizona Cardinals to move their training camp to Prescott.

Most of the victims appeared to have gotten sick at the beginning of the trips, some of which last for two weeks if the parties travel the more than 200 miles from the beginning point at Lees Ferry to Lake Mead, Kramer said.

He said one person had to be airlifted from the river inside the Canyon because of medical complications.

Barbara Worgess, Coconino County health services director, said the investigation was focusing on meat products in warehouses owned by the river-tour companies.

Colorado River trips attract about 25,000 visitors a year.

Many tour companies rely on placing food in containers in the frigid river water to aid in the preservation.

Maureen Oltrogge, a Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman, said that river tour companies are required to notify the Park Service if three or more people become sick during their trips on the Colorado.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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