We have had an outbreak of Norovirus on the AT that appears to be moving our way. We are primarily concerned with the AT but it could spread to other trails. If you encounter hikers when on your trails, ask if they are aware of the norovirus and ask for any feedback about ill hikers and suspected locations. The poster below from ATC provides more information on the virus.
I've attached the poster developed for use along the A.T. between Hot Springs and Erwin earlier in the season. I believe the language was developed primarily from input from the Tennessee Dept. of Health, after learning about the situation on the Trail and the practices of hikers. They noted all the sick people they had interviewed had used only hand sanitizer. They seemed to think that hand sanitizer was better than nothing but not adequate by itself.
I don't know if there have been any studies to determine how effective hand-washing in the backcountry might be, especially if only cold water were used. But it's feasible with planning and preparation, if inconvenient. There are also some non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers that claim to be effective against norovirus and registered with the EPA. One is www.microbearmour.com, but it's expensive.
Information Services Manager
Appalachian Trail Conservancy