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Acute Gastroenteritis Outbreak Among Colorado River Rafters and Backpackers in the Grand Canyon, 2022.

INTRODUCTION: From April 1 to May 31, 2022, Grand Canyon National Park received increased acute gastroenteritis reports. Pooled portable toilet specimens identified norovirus genogroups I and II. We sought to determine outbreak transmission contributors and individual risk factors while rafting or backpacking in the park.

METHODS: Grand Canyon rafters and backpackers were surveyed online from June 13-July 8, 2022, and a Cox proportional hazards model was used to identify predictors associated with illness and adjusted for potential confounding factors.

RESULTS: Among 762 surveys, 119 cases and 505 well persons submitted complete survey data. Illness among rafters was associated with interaction with ill persons during the trip (adjusted hazard ratio [adjHR] = 3.4 [95%CI 2.3-5.0]) and lack of any hand hygiene (1.2 [0.7-1.9]) or use of only sanitizer or water (1.6 [1.04-2.6]) before snacks. Younger rafters had higher illness rates compared to those ≥60 y (1.5 [1.2-1.8] for ages 40-59 and 2.2 [1.4-3.5] for ages <40 y).

CONCLUSIONS: Person-to-person transmission likely accounted for the widespread outbreak. Future outbreak mitigation efforts on river trips could focus on symptom screening before the trip starts, prompt separation of ill and well passengers, strict adherence to hand hygiene with soap and water, minimizing social interactions among rafting groups, and widespread outbreak notices and education to all park users.

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