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View Full Version : Have you caught a DISEASE on the AT?



Nate
02-04-2006, 20:53
One of my Biology professors is trying to teach me a lesson for being a nature lover. She feels my recient stay in shelters and my all to common solo-hikes has prompted her to give me a essay on the reasons I should fear hiking. What I am trying to do is find out is if any of you guys have ever caught a disease or sickness of any kind from hiking or outdoor related activates. Please respond if any sickness or disease has taken place.

Thanks for the Help...A big chunk of my grade is in your hands!
NATE

freefall
02-04-2006, 20:56
One of my Biology professors is trying to teach me a lesson for being a nature lover. She feels my recient stay in shelters and my all to common solo-hikes has prompted her to give me a essay on the reasons I should fear hiking. What I am trying to do is find out is if any of you guys have ever caught a disease or sickness of any kind from hiking or outdoor related activates. Please respond if any sickness or disease has taken place.

Thanks for the Help...A big chunk of my grade is in your hands!
NATE

I caught Springer Fever. An incurable disease whose symptoms are only abated by lots and lots of hiking.:banana

Heater
02-04-2006, 21:04
One of my Biology professors is trying to teach me a lesson for being a nature lover. She feels my recient stay in shelters and my all to common solo-hikes has prompted her to give me a essay on the reasons I should fear hiking. What I am trying to do is find out is if any of you guys have ever caught a disease or sickness of any kind from hiking or outdoor related activates. Please respond if any sickness or disease has taken place.

Thanks for the Help...A big chunk of my grade is in your hands!
NATE


I would talk to some of the hikers here and on trailjournals.com that have had real problems going back INTO "civilization" after an extended hike as a part of your study. Sort of turn the whole thing around, so to speak.

But that would be more of a psychological study than biological.

Chickety
02-04-2006, 21:15
does poison ivy count? :)

Knew of a few people who ended up with Lyme disease this past year, but that's about it.

Good luck!

Pennsylvania Rose
02-04-2006, 21:50
My hiking partner and I both caught Giardia somewhere south of Erwin.

Vi+
02-04-2006, 21:57
Nate,

You advise, ďOne of my Biology professors is trying to teach me a lesson for being a nature lover. She feels my recient stay in shelters and my all to common solo-hikes has prompted her to give me a essay on the reasons I should fear hiking.Ē

You may be within your right to ask your > BIOLOGY < professor why she is so afraid of nature. You know her better than I, and itís your grade.

Itís true, there are diseases with which you are more likely to come in contact living outdoors which are rare in our ďcivilizedĒ society.

I suspect, however, there are also diseases in our ďcivilizedĒ society which are rare in our more natural world.

There are diseases in other countries which are rare or nonexistent here. Some of those diseases arenít even named and have no known cure. We, as U.S. citizens, are free to travel in these countries, become infected, and bring these diseases home with us upon our return.

If your professor WANTS to worry, she can worry. Neither you nor I are going to stop her. She can worry about nature exclusively, if she has a limited imagination, or a whole myriad of other things as well. She may wish to stay home and keep her bed covers over her head.

I've been hiking solo a very long time. I've fallen, but gotten back up. I've gotten wet, but dried off. I've been very cold, VERY cold, but I'm warm now. I've had insect bites while hiking, at home, in cities, and in suburbs. I havenít gotten sick, nor do I know anyone who has gotten sick from hiking.

We all die. It doesnít take talent, skill, working out at the gym, or even practice. We all manage it somehow.

Do what you love. If you love nature, and itís possible, live in nature as much as you can manage.

Donít put your grade in my hands, Iíll get you failed.

general
02-04-2006, 22:11
i fell under the spell of a woman once, which i believe to be incurable.

Frosty
02-04-2006, 23:06
Not on the AT, but on the Northville-Placid Trail last August I caught something. Sick as a dog for three days, night sweats for weeks after,l ittle energy for two months. Tested for every imaginable disease, including TB, all negative. Then one day in October I realized I was fine. My doctor thinks it was a "non-mono mono," a mutant variant of mononucleosis. Whatever, I'll never know.

One thing for sure: You just don't appreciate feeling normal until you feel like crap for a couple months!

drsukie
02-04-2006, 23:43
I posted a serious illness on this poll....

...While hiking small sections in GA, where I live, I caught Trail Fever. At first I though it was just a small thing, something I could brush off. But it seems to be a viral-type infection -- driving itself deep into the fiber of my being, like chicken pox.

It seems to be incurable, but I have to admit I have done nothing about trying to fix it. I figure the only way to confront it is to -- sell my biz, sell my condo, and hike the whole damn thing...

If I am insane, at least I'll be a happy insane person! :bse Sue

Pedaling Fool
02-05-2006, 01:32
My hiking partner and I both caught Giardia somewhere south of Erwin.

... Do you know if you caught it at a spring, river, creek, ect...?

I have heard that you can't "tough it out" - you must see a doctor; was this true in your case?

The Desperado
02-05-2006, 01:47
Not me personally, but over the years I've heard of...colds...Giardia...Stomach virus...poison ivy...food poisoning. For just a few things, hope it helps ya.....

Nokia
02-05-2006, 01:50
Several hikers including myself got extremely sick near Catawba this year. At least 2 dozen that I know of. Really bad intestinal thing.

Wonder
02-05-2006, 03:37
Lyme.....during a day hike of all things...found it really early though

Singe03
02-05-2006, 05:01
Well the flu, or some similar bug, and trying to ignore it for a few days is what ultimately sent me home from North Woodstock, but I'd argue that it was a one in a million thing and your in more danger of catching it in the city where you are more exposed to other people. I think if I had made better choices and layed up for a couple of days and rested, I'd have been fine and made Kathadin.

In fact, other than the insect borne stuff and injuries, I'd make the arguement that you are less likely to catch something on the trail than going to work or school.

wyclif
02-05-2006, 05:36
I've heard a lot of thru-hikers get Giardia.

So what's the medically-sound way to cure this?

MOWGLI
02-05-2006, 06:33
Several hikers including myself got extremely sick near Catawba this year. At least 2 dozen that I know of. Really bad intestinal thing.

Did you drink out of the spigot at the country store near Catawaba?

Marta
02-05-2006, 08:23
Giardia can be "toughed out," though it takes a few weeks to get over it and become resistant, and even longer to regain your strength. You will probably lose quite a bit of weight. Our whole family got giardia when we were living in Russia. It's endemic in the water supply in many places there. My husband is the only one who took the treatment, which is quite unpleasant.

The Hog
02-05-2006, 09:00
Nate, I picked up a tick disease hiking the Continental Divide Trail in Montana (from a single tick bite). Initially, it was diagnosed as Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever, but that couldn't be confirmed with serology testing. The symptoms included a 103 fever, severe headache, night sweats, loss of appetite, total prostration. I was in agony with the headache, and could barely stand up. In hindsight, it could have been another tick disease like Erhlichiosis, Q fever, or Babesiosis. Many of these tick diseases have a fatality rate of 5-10%, depending on your age and other factors. Personally, I think what I had may have been Erhlichiosis. I was fortunate that I was home when the symptoms kicked in (some tick diseases have incubation periods of 5-14 days). If I had been out in the middle of nowhere (I was alone), it's conceivable that I might not have survived.

A couple of years later, Lynne Whelden and I were hiking the CDT on the MT/ID border and encountered a number of ticks (Lynne found 7 on himself, 1 on me). After Lynne returned home, he came down with a similar tick disease.

The organisms causing these diseases are called rickettsia. They're bacteria without cell walls that hide out inside your cells, thereby avoiding your immune system. An antibiotic that easily penetrates your cell membrane, like doxyclycline, is the only thing I know of that can effectively take out these pernicious organisms.

When you're bitten by a tick, never, ever grab the tick and pull it out. What happens in that case is that when you squeeze the tick's body, you inject the contents of the tick into yourself. That is a potentially terrible error. Instead, gently pinch the ticks mouthparts as closely as possible to your skin (with tweezers if you have them), and gently release the tick. Then save it in a plastic bag or other container for about 14 days. If you have no symptoms by then, chuck it. On the other hand, if symptoms do appear, you can get the tick tested to get a handle on which disease is affecting you.

Knowing about this stuff in no way stops me from hiking. It just makes me a little more cautious and careful about how I react to danger.

casanoah
02-05-2006, 14:45
I don't recall what the primary source was but I first read in "Against Civilization" and since in a variety of Anthropological literature that it wasn't until the inception of civilization apx 10,000 years ago that the diseases which plague even came into existance, which Jared Diamond and many other leading biologists and anthropoligists blame on the structuring of society as a "civilized" construct. Cancer, Diabetes, AIDs, just about anything you can imagine short of influenza and the common cold simply don't or rather didn't exist in non-domesticated, gatherer-hunter, tribalist societies.

weary
02-05-2006, 17:19
Well, the emergency room in Franklin, NC once diagnosed a swollen big toe as a staff infection. Is that a "disease?" Several later doctors have diagnosed similar conditions as "gout." which isn't catchable, but which I understand sometimes is triggered by too many beers, while dreaming of hiking.

digger51
02-05-2006, 23:37
I picked up an illness that recurrs every march or april. This insane urge grabs me and drags me to Springer.

Gray Blazer
02-06-2006, 12:40
:jump I got AT fever! incurable!:jump

Sleepy the Arab
02-08-2006, 00:12
Odd... we've hit the second page and still no jokes about Jester or Billville. Yes, very odd indeed.

Nokia
02-08-2006, 03:18
I think nearly everyone of us had stayed in the shed thing out back and drank water there. I now know that a few years ago they had an issue with hikers getting sick. Come to find out thier sewage line in the town was leaking into the fresh water! Wish I knew before my 5 day stay in a motel in Daleville sick as a dog.

neo
02-08-2006, 10:59
:jump I got AT fever! incurable!:jump


same here:cool: neo

orangebug
02-08-2006, 11:44
It is interesting that the poll deals with "disease" rather than trauma as a health issue on the trail. I expect that trauma would be the most common sort of trip ending event other than psychological issues such as boredom. GI events tend to be self limiting, other than the occasional food poisoning that needs rehydration and other intervention. Other limiting conditions would be anticipated, like constipation, dental caries, cardiovascular and peripheral vascular problems.

Since none of us gets out of here alive, anyway, I don't particularly worry about getting an illness. I prefer to plan on how to deal with occurences and take the time to attend to Mother Nature's reminders of our mortality.

sliderule
02-08-2006, 22:38
Well, the emergency room in Franklin, NC once diagnosed a swollen big toe as a staff infection.

More likely a staph infection. Short for staphylococcus.

A staff infection is quite different and would not likely occur in the big toe.

A staff infection is quite preventable. Just keep your staff covered while in use.

Jester2000
02-09-2006, 13:09
Now THAT was funny. Started out sounding snide, and then wrapped up with a big wow ending.


Odd... we've hit the second page and still no jokes about Jester or Billville. Yes, very odd indeed.

I know! Especially since my evil twin's name is Fester.

I've seen a fair amount of illness on the Trail, but it's mostly humans infecting other humans, just as in the cities. One bright note: fewer small children around -- those creatures are little disease factories.

As for your teacher's motivation for giving you the asignment, I saw a funny T-shirt at the Outfitters at Harper's Ferry that read something like:
Get mauled by a bear and die.
Fall off a cliff and die.
Get hypothermia and die.
Or watch TV, eat junk food, and fall off your couch and die.

icemanat95
02-09-2006, 13:42
I got minor injuries on the trail (knee pain, cuts and scratches mostly) I've also contracted a serious stomach bug that laid waste to me in only a few hours and took days to recover from. Nevertheless, none of these particularly scare me. I am aware of them and cautious about handling my food and water, but beyond that?

Most people who are morbidly afraid of that sort of thing, like your teacher, haven't spent much time out there. They forget that somehow or other, human beings managed to evolve from nomadic cave dwelling hunter gatherers to where we are now without all that almost magical medical care that we have grown to depend upon. The human race has something like 50 millenia of history behind us and less than 100 years of that have we benefitted from anything like a scientific understanding of bacteria and viruses. Only 60 years of readily available antibiotics.

gravityman
02-09-2006, 13:46
In 2001 my wife got some type of intestinal issue. Start just out of Hiawassee, lasted until we got off the trail in Harpers Ferry, and actually still gave her problems for about another year. Very tough on her and she lost a lot of weight. Stool tests all came back negative for bugs. Suspect that it was some type of Giardia that lead to a secondary intestinal infection that took a long time to clear up, but no doctor ever could give a good reason. She lost a ton of weight.

In 2005 we walked a VERY dehydrated Skillet off of Big Butt. He started vomiting on a slack pack, and couldn't keep any water down. He was in bad shape, EMTs eventually took him to the hospital, and he was there for 3 days.

In Maine we ran in to Method Man to find out his hiking partner left the trail in NY because of some real nasty tick born illness. Method Man said that the prognosis wasn't good, but he wasn't dieing. That was scary and sad.

Gravity

java
02-10-2006, 10:58
Giardia can be "toughed out," though it takes a few weeks to get over it and become resistant, and even longer to regain your strength. You will probably lose quite a bit of weight. Our whole family got giardia when we were living in Russia. It's endemic in the water supply in many places there. My husband is the only one who took the treatment, which is quite unpleasant.

I've had Girardiasis twice now. The first time I got it was in Maine, on the trail. I don't know exactly where because you don't get sick right away when you get it. Thinking back, hygiene wasn't really a priority at that point in the hike, and in Maine the water sources are often beaver ponds. A round of the anti-biotic/anti-infective 'Flagyl' took care of it. 3 pills a day for ten days. I was feeling much better after only about 48 hours on the drug, but of course finished them all. The treatment isn't bad at all.

I just had it again when it was triggered back from dormancy after a round of anti-biotics I took for a sinus infection. Giardia can live in your system for a very long time, and taking anti-biotics can throw off the levels of good and bad bacteria in your gut causing it to flare up again. Tons of fun, let me tell you, but NOT a reason not to go hiking.

Klezmorim
02-11-2006, 17:01
There probably is a better thread on this forum to put this, but since intestinal "issues" seem to be a common problem, I thought I'd share this little tip if you ever find that a bug is causing dehydration. You could buy pre-mixed packages of ORT, but why not save the money?


Oral Rehyration Solution


one level teaspoon of salt

eight level teaspoons of sugar (a packet of sugar is one teaspoon)

one liter of clean drinking waterMix well and drink!

I caught an intestinal bug a couple years ago and this solution worked wonders. At first my system didn't want it, but within minutes my body actually began to crave it. Two liters later, I was well again.

Chef
02-11-2006, 23:57
Besides all the psychological damage I received heading back into civilization after a seven month hike, I also had a physical illness. I got lymes disease around Shenandoah and it kicked my ass. All the classic symptons that make you question what the heck you are doing. I guess Im still suffering from mental anguish of not being on the trail.

sliderule
02-12-2006, 13:10
Besides all the psychological damage I received heading back into civilization after a seven month hike.......

It's called PTSD.

Post trail stress disorder.

Tinker
02-12-2006, 13:31
Cause unknown. Symptoms consisted of explosive diharrea, vomiting, cold sweats, fever. Lasted 4 days back in the 1990's.
Contracted on or near the Bondcliff Trail (AT). (May have been contracted at a low camp in the Pemigewassett Wilderness).

I've had no further problems since I started using First Need (heavy but efficient) purifier.

Tinker
02-12-2006, 13:35
There probably is a better thread on this forum to put this, but since intestinal "issues" seem to be a common problem, I thought I'd share this little tip if you ever find that a bug is causing dehydration. You could buy pre-mixed packages of ORT, but why not save the money?


Oral Rehyration Solution

one level teaspoon of salt
eight level teaspoons of sugar (a packet of sugar is one teaspoon)
one liter of clean drinking waterMix well and drink!


I caught an intestinal bug a couple years ago and this solution worked wonders. At first my system didn't want it, but within minutes my body actually began to crave it. Two liters later, I was well again.

Sounds like Gatorade, without the flavor. I always water it down by 25% or more. Never thought of it as a cure-all!:-?

ed bell
02-12-2006, 15:30
Well, the emergency room in Franklin, NC once diagnosed a swollen big toe as a staff infection. Is that a "disease?" Several later doctors have diagnosed similar conditions as "gout." which isn't catchable, but which I understand sometimes is triggered by too many beers, while dreaming of hiking.

I suffer from occasional bouts with gout. Horrible condition. Over the counter anti-inflammitories can't touch it. Beers can bring on an acute attack, but I usually only get a serious flare up about once every 18 months. I get it in my big toe or ankle. Walking will bring you to tears. I have several natural remedies I can share if anyone is interested.:sun

weary
02-12-2006, 17:19
I suffer from occasional bouts with gout. Horrible condition. Over the counter anti-inflammitories can't touch it. Beers can bring on an acute attack, but I usually only get a serious flare up about once every 18 months. I get it in my big toe or ankle. Walking will bring you to tears. I have several natural remedies I can share if anyone is interested.:sun
I have the same 18 month cycle, the last of which came on a weekend and I was out of a prescription medicine that works. An internet search suggested Aleve. I took the suggested eight (? that's my memory, but you'd better check) tablets and they worked. The pain disappeared within an hour or so.

That attack was brought on from carrying 2 by 8, by 12 foot rough sawn planks for a bog bridge trail project I'm working on. I was using a sled on three inches of snow and the planks kept getting caught up on roots and things, wrenching my knee.

I earlier had had some helpers, all several decades younger than I am, but they all decided they were too old for such work. Age does slow one down. But I doubt if it really qualifies as a disease, nor is it trail related. I think of trails as anti-age devices.

Weary

Topcat
02-12-2006, 17:54
I was in Peace Corps from 1983-1985 spending one year of my 2 years on the border of Haiti-Dominican Republic and had most of the parasites that are common in the AT. I havent had any problems since my first year there and rarely treat my water on the AT. I am conviced that most problems come from bad hygene of other hikers and not water or drinking sources. I dont shake hands, carry Purell hand sanitizer and do freezer bag cooking. I think those habits will help to keep me healthy on the trail.

Klezmorim
02-12-2006, 20:48
Sounds like Gatorade, without the flavor. I always water it down by 25% or more. Never thought of it as a cure-all!:-?

Yeah, the original Gatorade *was* for ORT (Oral Rehydration Therapy). Buy the crystals if you like (avoid the 'power' flavors - stick with the original), but be aware: mix according to directions! If you're just mixing it with water for a whatever beverage, dilution is ok. However, if you're treating real dehydration, especially the diarrheal kind, do NOT dilute. Various sources indicate this could be counter-productive.

Of course, if symptoms last more than 3 days... you know the yada-yada: Get thee to a doctor.

orangebug
02-12-2006, 22:40
If you have dehydration from diarrhea, you will need more potassium, and hence benefit from Gatorade or one of the less tasty ORTs. It is usally a good idea to bring a few packs of your favorite sweetener to make your ORT go down, which is the real benefit of Gatorade powder. Sweating and generalized dehydration from inadequate water intake / vomiting may or may not need the extra K+. The cure remains water - possibly in small frequent sips.

The previous homemade ORT cited would be inadequate for diarrhea dehydration.

Klezmorim
02-13-2006, 09:36
If you have dehydration from diarrhea, you will need more potassium, and hence benefit from Gatorade or one of the less tasty ORTs. It is usally a good idea to bring a few packs of your favorite sweetener to make your ORT go down, which is the real benefit of Gatorade powder. Sweating and generalized dehydration from inadequate water intake / vomiting may or may not need the extra K+. The cure remains water - possibly in small frequent sips.

The previous homemade ORT cited would be inadequate for diarrhea dehydration.

Sure, many of the pre-packaged ORTs have potassium and if you wish to purchase these or Gatorade that's fine, BUT in an emergency OR to save money the proper blend of salt, sugar and water is sufficient.


Reference:

"The home-made solution is adequate in most causes. If the [diarrhea] is severe, ask your [phamacist] for a special packet of Oral Rehydration Salts. Follow the instructions on the packet carefully."

http://dmoz.org/Health/Conditions_and_Diseases/Digestive_Disorders/Intestinal/Diarrhea/faq.html#14

Twofiddy
02-16-2006, 22:54
... Do you know if you caught it at a spring, river, creek, ect...?

I have heard that you can't "tough it out" - you must see a doctor; was this true in your case?

The number one location where people catch giardia is the location on ones body that produces number two.

Wash your hands after wiping your butt and before you eat and you wont have any problems.

Smile
02-16-2006, 23:51
"he who goes to bed with itchy bottom, wakes up with stinky fingers"
- paolo pece

jackiebolen
02-17-2006, 01:54
I got Ehrlichiosis from a tick bite in 2004 and it ended my hike. I was too weak to keep walking and so I went home and still felt horrible almost 2 months later.

orangebug
02-17-2006, 13:11
The number one location where people catch giardia is the location on ones body that produces number two....You aren't going to catch Giardia from yourself. Now, if you are wiping someone else's orifice, you might have a problem.

Oral fecal contamination comes from the toileting/hygiene practices of others, and your own propensity to touch your face and mouth.

We have a tendency to assume that anything that squirts is Giardia, in the backcountry. There are many ways to get diarrhea, and many etiological agents.

The Solemates
02-17-2006, 13:16
Worried about a disease? Eat mice: http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=13019&highlight=mice+protein

woodsy
02-18-2006, 11:09
It is odorless...colorless...that mountain stream may look inviting but beware. Call it Beaver Fever or whatever you want , it inhabits many streams,ponds,lakes. Yes, Beaver contribute but so do many other animals that sh.t in or near the water.

Met a NOBO last fall in Maine who was really ill; His friends said he was not to particular about the water he drank. (can't remember his name). When offered a ride for Med. help refused. Can't say for sure if it was Giardia but your guess is as good as mine.

Maine has many high ponds that are teeming with Beaver, Moose and other critters . Crystal clear and inviting but may be detrimental to your health.

Woodsy