People are getting explosive gastroenteritis at the Grand Canyon

Enlarge / The Grand Canyon viewed from the South Rim adjacent to the El Tovar Hotel on November 11, 2019, in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. (credit: Getty | George Rose)

The Grand Canyon is an immense, vibrantly painted geological wonder, treasured for its awe-inspiring stratified architecture, which has been spectacularly sculpted over millions of years. Up close, it will blow your mind and take your breath away—and if you’ve visited recently, it may also violently flush your colon and have you projectile vomiting your granola bars.

That’s right—the majestic natural wonder has been the site of a months-long outbreak of gastrointestinal illness, likely caused by norovirus. The virus was confirmed to be the cause of illnesses among at least eight rafting trips. Overall, more than 150 river rafters and backcountry campers have fallen ill since April, according to a recent update from the Grand Canyon National Park Service.

While many may have sought the outdoor grandeur in hopes of avoiding the pandemic coronavirus, it seems they were instead met with a different germ that has been savagely hollowing out innards at a pace many orders of magnitude faster than the Colorado River gutted the southwestern section of the Colorado Plateau. Amid the smoothly carved buttes and intricately chiseled chasms serenely shaped over eons, park-goers are blowing chunks from both ends in hot seconds. And instead of reaching both the North and South Rims during their visits, some are forced to remain perched on the edge of a far smaller basin.

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