Winter Olympics 2018: Norovirus Outbreak Raises Concerns

February 8, 2018, 10:33 PM UTC

Just ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony in, Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics officials are battling an outbreak of norovirus, a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

By Thursday morning there were 128 confirmed cases, according to the New York Times, causing some concern during what is otherwise a reportedly smooth start to the games.

Most of the cases (97) were at the Horeb Youth Centre, while another 11 cases were in Pyeongchang, along with 20 more in Gangneung, according to the Times. Organizers quarantined over 1,000 workers in their rooms, Business Insider reported, and around 000 military personnel were brought in to replace impacted security staff.

Thus far, no athletes have been reported ill, according to Business Insider.

Organizers took some precautionary measures, including handing out educational flyers and providing bottles of hand sanitizer. Dr. Park Kisoo, a spokesperson for the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, discussed the need for thorough personal hygiene at a press conference on Wednesday.

Symptoms appear roughly 24 to 30 hours after contact with the virus, according to Scientific American. Because Norovirus is viral and not bacterial, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. Staying hydrated during the illness, which typically 48 to 72 hours, is important.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis, and it is spread by contact with contaminated fecal matter through unwashed food, unwashed hands, or touching a contaminated surface—and then touching your mouth. It is known as the “cruise ship virus,” and it can spread quickly in densely packed areas, such cruise ships or nursing homes.

The best way to prevent catching the illness is washing your hands with soap and water before eating, after going to the restroom, and after touching a potentially contaminated space. The benefit of using hand sanitizers is still unclear, Scientific American says.