News and Notices

Norovirus cleared from Travers-Sabine Circuit (Nelson Lakes)

The Department of Conservation and Nelson Marlborough Health have confirmed that the norovirus outbreak on the Travers-Sabine Circuit in Nelson Lakes National Park appears to be over and people can now use the track again.

Nelson Lakes Operations Manager John Wotherspoon says the gastro bug infection that broke out around Christmas on the circuit has been contained with no further reported cases since 8 January.

“I’m pleased to welcome people back to the Travers-Sabine Circuit.”

DOC on 4 January advised people to stay away from the Travers-Sabine Circuit for a week at least to try to limit the outbreak. A sample taken from a tramper has confirmed the bug affecting people on the circuit was norovirus.

“We’ve had the odd isolated case of people with stomach bugs on some other tracks at the top of the South Island but it’s only been a few people affected and there have been no other confirmed cases of norovirus at any other DOC sites, said John Wotherspoon.

“This is thanks to people heeding the hygiene messages we posted at huts and campsites along with extra cleaning measures we put in to prevent the gastro bug spreading.

“It’s also not uncommon to have instances of people getting a stomach bag while camping or tramping which can be due to various causes.”

Dr Andrew Lindsay, Medical Officer of Health with the Nelson Marlborough Health Public Health Service, says he is reasonably confident the outbreak has ended, given that no new cases have been reported on the Travers-Sabine track since 8 January.

“Nevertheless it is a timely reminder just how rapidly a contagious bug like norovirus can spread with communal living and large numbers of people sharing facilities.

“DOC has done a good job in containing the spread however trampers using the national parks should remain vigilant and continue to practise good hygiene,” says Dr Lindsay.  

DOC is continuing to monitor reports of people being unwell and will take appropriate measures as needed.

People are asked to report any cases of vomiting and diarrhoea while in conservation areas to the DOC hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

Anyone who has had suspected norovirus symptoms is asked to stay out of national parks and the backcountry for at least 48 hours.

Nelson Marlborough Health's preventative guidelines

  • If someone in your group has just had norovirus the incubation period until others in the family or group may get sick is usually 12 to 48 hours. People should take this into consideration when planning their holiday.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, before preparing food and before eating
  • Wash and dry your hands well using soap and water and, ideally, follow this with hand sanitiser
  • Prepare for the worst: pack paper towels, soap and hand sanitiser. Consider packing a small bottle of bleach.

People who fall ill while they are tramping or camping should:

  • Isolate themselves as much as possible and consider going home to recover. You can be infectious for up to two days after symptoms cease.
  • Avoid preparing food for others
  • Avoid vomiting in sinks or shared basins/surfaces. The toilet is the best place.
  • Report illness to campground or DOC staff
  • Clean up vomit or excreta using gloves (if available), detergent and hot water followed by bleach (household bleach diluted 1part bleach to 10 parts water).