It seems their Yosemite getaway is to blame.
Park officials said on Thursday that the California destination, best known for its giant sequoia trees and sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada range, is now host to something far less picturesque: a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness.
About 170 people who work there or visited recently have reported stomach issues, including diarrhea and vomiting, officials said. The outbreak has hit every part of the Yosemite Valley, a central tourist area home to hotels, shops and most of the park’s infrastructure.
Two of the cases have been confirmed as norovirus, an aggressive bug that can spread through direct contact with an infected person, contaminated food, drinks or objects and even airborne transmission. The “overwhelming majority” of other cases are consistent with the virus, officials said.
“I’m upset because we love going to the park, and we love going to the Ahwahnee, but now we are going to feel a little bit wary,” Bennett said. “It’s kind of disgusting to think that somebody who didn’t wash their hands may have passed on the virus.”
Norovirus outbreaks, most common in crowded environments like schools and hospitals, have previously been documented at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean, where 332 people got sick, for example.
Those suffering from the virus typically develop symptoms between 12 to 48 hours after exposure and start to recover within one to three days. Most of the Yosemite cases were reported around the first week of the year, officials said, with a “significant decrease” since then.
“We’re hopeful that we’re on the downward cycle of it,” Scott Gediman, a park spokesperson, told the Chronicle. But it will be difficult to identify the cause of the outbreak, he said.
Since at least late last week, the National Park Service has been working with federal and state public health officials to contain the outbreak by inspecting and disinfecting restaurants, hotel rooms and other facilities within the park. By then, at least a dozen people inside the park had reported gastrointestinal problems.
Yet Kathleen Morse, 45, told the Chronicle that no one had informed her about the outbreak and that she had to call three times to report her and her husband’s illnesses to management at the Ahwahnee.
The couple had celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary at the upscale hotel and ventured out for lunch at the nearby Yosemite Lodge, where she noted the bathrooms did not have hand sanitizer.
The Ahwahnee, where rooms at the foot of Half Dome can cost upward of $1000 a night, has been plagued by other problems in recent months. On Jan. 7, the Chronicle reported that AAA hotel inspectors had downgraded the establishment’s four-diamond rating for the first time since 1991.
Since Aramark, a Philadelphia-based food services company, took over the hotel, previously known for hosting movie stars and presidents, visitors have complained about deteriorating service.
(Representatives for the company, which manages transportation, concessions and other lodging options inside the park, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.)
The norovirus is the second outbreak at Yosemite in the past decade.
In 2012, a booming population of deer mice in the park caused a rare hantavirus outbreak, which killed three people and sickened another seven. Victims had inhaled airborne particles of mouse feces and urine.