Olympic officials are scrambling to contain an outbreak of the norovirus that struck dozens of security guards ahead of the official kickoff of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, reports the New York Times.
Around 1,200 security staff members have been kept in their rooms while they wait to be tested for the highly contagious virus, Olympic representatives said during a news conference on Tuesday. To make up for the personnel shortage, South Korea has deployed 900 members of its military.
Whilst officials do not know the exact source of the virus, the food, and beverages at the lodging were up to international safety standards. The guards being tested will remain in their quarters until they are deemed to not have the virus, Lee Hee-Beom, the chairman of the organizing committee, said.
Norovirus is best known in the United States as the “cruise ship virus” and in Europe as “winter vomiting flu”, and with thousands of athletes, staff members and spectators housed in close quarters, it is no surprise that outbreaks of the norovirus have emerged at the Olympic Games, and other large-scale sporting events, in the past.
It is spread by touching contaminated surfaces, caring for sick people or eating uncooked food that people with the illness have touched. The most common symptoms of the gastrointestinal disease are nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain, along with fever, headaches and body aches. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the leading cause of outbreaks of food-borne illness in restaurants and salad bars in the United States.
Officials said pamphlets detailing the dangers of the virus and ways to avoid contracting the illness would be distributed to those visiting the Olympic sites.