Sun | Feb 18, 2018

Norovirus at Olympics has officials scrambling, worried

Published:Thursday | February 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP):

Signs posted around the Olympic venues urge extreme caution. Nine hundred troops stream into the area to help. Worried organisers sequester 1,200 people in their rooms.

Officials are scrambling on the eve of the biggest planned event in South Korea in years not because of anything related to North Korea and national security, but in an attempt to arrest the spread of norovirus at the Pyeongchang Games.

Local media are fretting over a "virus panic". South Koreans, always quick to air their views online, have poured scorn on the government's response and preparations. Are the games hygienic? What will people think about South Korea? Could this spread to the athletes?

Norovirus fears may turn out to be much ado about nothing. But with a national reputation on the line, officials are scrambling to contain its spread. No one here wants these games associated more with disease than athletics in the manner that Zika, a mosquito-borne disease that causes rare birth defects in a small proportion of cases, loomed over the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Norovirus is a common infectious bug that causes unpleasant symptoms, including diarrhoea and vomiting, but doesn't require medical treatment; most people recover on their own after a few days. Large outbreaks of the disease have previously been reported in restaurants, cruise ships, nursing homes, schools, and building complexes that share a common water source.