Tags: norovirus | olympics | security staff

Norovirus at Olympics Sidelines Security Staff Just as Athletes Arrive

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Tuesday, 06 February 2018 07:48 AM

A norovirus at the Winter Olympics sidelined the security staff just as athletes were arriving. About 1,200 people working security in Pyeongchang, South Korea were being kept in their rooms while they were being tested for the virus.

A cold snap also threatens to make it the coldest Olympics on record.

Lee Hee-beom, chairman of the Pyeongchang Olympics organizing committee, said on Tuesday that the security staff would be sequestered until they were declared well, The Associated Press reported.

Pyeongchang's Olympic organizing committee said on Monday that officials started investigating a norovirus outbreak after 41 security guards suffered diarrhea and vomiting.

Officials were examining food and water sources at a mountainside facility in Pyeongchang where the guards had been staying and also was inspecting 18 other facilities that rely on groundwater.

Norovirus is a contagious virus that causes stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. The most effective way to stop the spread is to practice good hand-washing and personal hygiene, the AP reported.

Reuters reported Lee as saying preparations for the first winter Olympics in Asia outside Japan were complete and athletes were arriving in the South Korean town.

"We are fully operational with many of our athletes and officials here and settling into their life in the villages and training is underway at all venues," Lee told a news conference.

But he said the norovirus has forced organizers to replace the security staff with military personnel.

Athletes from several countries were taken ill and some were forced to miss competitions at last year's world athletics championship in London when the virus was found to have spread through one hotel.

"As a president of POCOG (organising committee), I would like to apologise for this," Lee said.

"Our disease control centre other related government agencies here are now discussing countermeasures and will come up with proper measures and will be announced soon."

The IOC said leaflets about the virus with instructions on what to do were being distributed.

"That is the first thing but you will have also hand sanitisers," Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi told reporters.

"All areas are getting disinfected. They (organizers) will be extremely diligent to sanitise anything that came into contact with the persons. Very stringent measures are in place when it comes to food and beverage."

Lee said this would have no effect on security arrangements at the Games, held about 80 kilometers south of the border to North Korea, with whom South Korea is still technically at war since 1953.

The cold weather, however, could be an issue for organizers with the opening ceremony in the open-air Olympic stadium expected to be freezing.

Temperatures are currently below freezing throughout the day, dropping to as low as minus 21 degrees Celsius at night.

Lee said some fans will not attend the opening ceremony despite having bought tickets, while some competitions could be affected.

"Some have canceled their ticket for the opening ceremony," Lee said.

"Regarding the potential of the delay due to the weather, the International Olympic Committee and the international federation have strict rules, for example, ski jumping can not take place if there's a strong wind.

"We are now installing wind screens at the venue. Despite our efforts and if there is a strong wind, the event can be delayed but the decision won't be made by me, it will be made by IOC and the federation."

Lee said a special bag with hot packs, seatwarmers, a blanket, a hat and a windbreaker would be distributed to spectators in an effort to keep them warm at the start of what could turn out to be the coldest winter Olympics in decades. 

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A norovirus at the Winter Olympics sidelined the security staff just as athletes were arriving. About 1,200 people working security in Pyeongchang, South Korea were being kept in their rooms while they were being tested for the virus.
norovirus, olympics, security staff
607
2018-48-06
Tuesday, 06 February 2018 07:48 AM
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