Stomach virus plagued Cycle Oregon

A stomach virus of undetermined origin swept through the 2,200 members of Cycle Oregon last week, affecting some 500 people, some of whom were transported to motels or hospitals in Jackson and Josephine counties.

In an apparently unrelated incident, cyclist John O. Aegby, 59, of Eugene was found dead in his tent Friday at Riverside Park in Grants Pass. The death is under investigation but police do not suspect foul play.

Cycle Oregon director Jerry Norquist described the illness as a stomach virus, not the flu, and said victims were over it in 12 to 24 hours.

"We don't know if it's the flu. I believe it was a stomach virus transmitted by not washing hands. It wasn't a food-borne illness, because that makes everyone sick at once — and our kitchen is checked by the health department every night. The illness progressed and peaked on Wednesday in Glendale," said Norquist.

Cycle Oregon officials put up more hand-washing stations and cleaned bathrooms more often in response to the virus.

"In our 23 years, we've never had anything like this. It can happen," he said, citing similar episodes in Kansas and Wisconsin cycling tours.

"When we go out with 2,500 people, there are things that go on in a city of that size and they go on in a cycling community. With that many people, you are always going to have people getting sick. Two thousand people felt fine and completed the tour and they're adamant it was one of the best rides they've ever done," Norquist said.

He said the ailment was "definitely viral, transmitted by contact with people's hands. We had an infectious disease specialist on the ride and he confirmed that."

The 400-mile tour ended where it began, in Medford, on Saturday night and most participants left for home that day, said Norquist. Some stayed behind as tourists in Ashland, Jacksonville and other spots, he added.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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