Muddy weekend at Burning Man: Why doctor says Burners need to wash off mud as soon as possible

ByJ.R. Stone, Luz Pena KGO logo
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Muddy weekend at Burning Man: Why Burners need to wash off mud ASAP
The mud thousands of people were exposed to at Burning Man is raising health concerns for increased risk of infections.

BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev. -- The annual Burning Man festival draws thousands of people to Black Rock City in the Nevada desert for artistic performances, music and a lot of partying.

But rain turned the playa into a mudpit.

"Sure you don't want to help me get this shoe off," yelled one festival goer as another helped pull duct tape, bags and mud off his shoes.

Those attending the Burning Man festival, referred to as "Burners," dealing with quite a bit of mud on Monday.

RELATED: Burning Man organizers lift driving ban after heavy rains left the event smothered in mud

Tens of thousands of partygoers stranded at the Burning Man counterculture festival by a late summer storm hoped muddy roads would reopen Monday.

Some of the muddiest shoes that you may have ever seen.

Cleaning them the best they can at one of the popular spots for those leaving the festival, the In-N-Out Burger in Sparks, Nevada where dirt was scattered on the ground in the parking lot.

"It's super heavy it feels like five pounds on each leg, if not more. We had to put trash bags on the shoes in order for us not to sink into the mud. Looks like trash bag and duct tape," said Nicole Geht.

Everyone focused on getting that mud off of their shoes. Mud that seems to be all over everything, but mud that symbolizes what they went through.

Geht says they were on the opposite side of the camp at Black Rock City when the rain started Friday.

"We left the bikes there we didn't even take them back because of the mud, we couldn't get to take them back so we have no bikes," said Geht.

RELATED: Santa Cruz man at Burning Man breaks down situation as thousands stranded due to flooding

Thousands in attendance at the annual Burning Man Festival are stranded in the Nevada Desert after heavy rain turned the area into a giant mud pit.

It took them 24 hours to get back to their RV. They ate food and found shelter with new friends on the way back.

Festival organizers warned Burners not to leave Saturday or Sunday due to the conditions after the rain. Telling festival goers to conserve food, water and gasoline.

Geht says they did unsuccessfully attempt to leave.

"We tried to leave two days ago, it was impossible, we tried to leave yesterday and we got stuck in the mud, and today good people helped us and we are out."

RELATED: TIMELINE: What is Burning Man? The festival's lengthy history has roots in San Francisco

What is Burning Man? Here's the history of the weeklong music and arts festival with roots in San Francisco.

Yes, out and in route back to Southern California for this group, and back to other locations across the country and world for those we talked with.

Not one person we interviewed said they wouldn't do it all over again, even with the rain and mud. Saying it made things that much more special.

That includes Nicole, who gave us video of what their party looked like Saturday night after the rain.

"After all of that would you go back?" we asked.

"Yes!" she quickly replied.

Bay Area doctor urging Burning Man attendees to wash off mud as soon as possible to avoid skin infections

Mud is what's concerning UCSF infectious diseases Dr. Monica Gandhi.

"In mud and dust, there is actually a bunch of organism that sit in our soil. In California, Nevada we tend to have the same dry conditions and the same soil organisms. If you really drag yourself through the mud like at the Tough Mudder competition in Sonoma last month and especially if you have skin abrasions, you can get skin and soft tissue infection or cellulitis from those soil organisms," said Dr. Gandhi.

MORE: Hundreds involved in Bay Area Tough Mudder race sick with possible staph, bacterial infections

A health advisory has been issued for participants of Tough Mudder race last weekend at Sonoma Raceway after hundreds say they developed skin rash.

Less exposure to mud in these conditions is key to avoid infections, according to Dr. Gandhi.

"I would say do not be covered with mud for more than two days because you really can get those organisms crawling in and causing skin infections," said Dr. Gandhi.

Burning Man organizers are urging burners to stay on hard-packed roads and out of standing water. Dr. Gandhi is suggesting to clean off the mud as soon as possible.

RELATED: 1 death under investigation as thousands at Burning Man festival confined in desert, authorities say

One was death reported as Burning Man festivalgoers in the Nevada desert are being told to conserve food and water as they shelter in place.

"Luckily, we haven't heard of any major outbreaks with anything and that is the relief because I was more worried about the skin infections with the mud," said Dr. Gandhi.

No outbreaks of any kind have been reported as of yet out of Burning Man.

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