Reduce your chance of contracting communicable diseases

Practice everyday preventative actions to keep yourself and others safe. Preventable communicable diseases like norovirus and Covid-19 place unnecessary stress on first responders, search and rescue teams and hospital staff. Please don’t put yourself or anyone else at risk of exposure. If you begin feeling sick, stay away from others and get off the trail.

Avoid shaking hands or other close contact — instead, elbow bumps or waving are safer ways to greet others.

Gastrointestinal illnesses cause preventable incidents

Gastrointestinal issues are an often-preventable cause of wilderness medical emergencies. Do your part by washing your hands and following other best practices. Norovirus is a particularly contagious virus. Outbreaks have occurred on trails around the world. Illness often begins suddenly and lasts about 1 to 2 days, with stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people and on infected surfaces that have been touched by ill people, such as containers of water at a cache or doorknobs at a hotel.

  • Wash your hands frequently with biodegradable soap at least 200 feet from water sources. When soap is not available, use hand sanitizer that contains 60-95% alcohol. Be aware that alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be ineffective against norovirus.
  • Boil or chemically treat water if you are worried about norovirus. Most filters do not remove viruses, but can be used effectively in combination with chemical disinfection against a broad range of pathogens.
  • Avoid sharing food. Do not eat out of the same food bag, share utensils or drink from other hikers’ water bottles.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • If you become sick with norovirus: Drink plenty of fluids and wash hands often. Seek medical treatment, especially if you become dehydrated or illness lasts more than a few days. Avoid contaminating common areas and surfaces. Stay home and/or away from others for two days after symptoms stop. If you are on trail, make sure that you are disposing of your waste properly.

Please read the norovirus guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Please report the date and location of any cases or outbreaks to the local health department. You can also fill out a U.S. Forest Service PCT Incident Report and contact PCTA to let us know.

Photo donated by Justin McCormick.

Covid-19 doesn’t stop at trailheads

Covid-19 can spread among hikers, the people who assist them, and people in towns along the trail. Take precautions to avoid exposure to the virus. You can reduce your risk by practicing common sense measures like being fully vaccinated, wearing a mask where appropriate, and staying outside.

People who believe they have been exposed to Covid-19 or who are experiencing Covid symptoms should leave the PCT immediately to seek testing and quarantine if necessary.

Whether it’s to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the flu, or the common cold, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Use the crook of your arm (inner elbow) or use a tissue and dispose of it using Leave No Trace principles.

Please read the Covid-19 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(With thanks to our colleagues at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.)

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