Norovirus spreading in PeyongChang ahead of Winter Olympics poses risks at home
Norovirus Strikes Winter Olympics
Athletes are among those taken ill at the Games as the number of confirmed cases climbs.
By George Vernadakis
Medically Reviewed by Sanjai Sinha, MD
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Two athletes are among the confirmed cases of norovirus at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
According to the , the total number of confirmed cases of norovirus, a highly contagious virus that affects the stomach and intestines, has reached 261 as of February 16.
Two Swiss freestyle skiers are reportedly the first athletes to have been hit by the virus. Most of the people who contracted the norovirus have been personnel at the Games.
As many as 1,200 security workers were quarantined at one point. As a result, hundreds of military personnel were deployed to handle security at the Games.
Norovirus outbreaks can occur at any time of year, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 80 percent of the outbreaks occur between November and April.
What Is Norovirus?
Norovirus is the leading cause of outbreaks of foodborne illness in the United States, according to the CDC. It can be transmitted through contaminated food, contact with someone who is infected, and by touching contaminated surfaces or objects.
The virus spreads quickly in closed spaces like schools and cruise ships, as well as in healthcare facilities. A 2014 study demonstrated that contamination of a single doorknob can lead to the spread of norovirus throughout an office building or hotel in as little as two hours.
Norovirus infection is a common cause of gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the lining of the intestines. Gastroenteritis is often referred to as “stomach flu,” even though it is unrelated to influenza viruses that cause the flu.
The most common symptoms of gastroenteritis include:
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Muscle aches or joint stiffness
- Low-grade fever
- Excessive sweating
How Do You Treat or Avoid Norovirus?
There is no treatment or vaccine for a norovirus infection. Most people get better in a few days by resting in bed and drinking plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration. Antibiotics won’t help the infection because it’s not bacterial.
Proper hand hygiene reduces the risk of infection. The CDC advises people to wash their hands often, especially after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food. Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly, and contaminated surfaces should be cleaned with a chlorine bleach solution or other disinfectant.
Flu Activity in South and North Korea
In other disease activity in the weeks leading up to the Olympics, South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs said that a “highly pathogenic strain of H5N6 avian influenza” or bird flu had been detected on farms near Seoul. Local media reported that several measures were taken to stem an outbreak, including the slaughter of potentially infected chickens and the quarantine of workers at poultry farms.
North Korea has been dealing with its own severe outbreak of seasonal influenza.
Video: Norovirus Has Hit Pyeongchang Winter Olympics | 177 People Are Sick | NYOOOZ TV
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