While no athletes have been struck down as yet, more than 100 others have been made bed-ridden as the bug known as the 'cruise ship virus' sweeps through the PyeongChang Games.
More than 100 people at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, have been struck down by the highly contagious stomach bug known as Norovirus.
On Thursday, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) confirmed 128 cases, a worrying spike from the 32 cases reported on Tuesday.
It is understood no athlete has contracted the bug as yet, which can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, stomach pains and headaches, but officials fear an outbreak, having already quarantined 1200 Olympic workers earlier in the week.
Police officers, security personnel, and food preparers are among those to have fallen ill. Most were exposed while at from the Horeb Youth Centre (97), but a number of cases have also popped up in other parts of PyeongChang and further east in Gangneung.
The PyeongChang Olympic Organization Committee has brought in at least 900 military personnel to replace some of the sick security workers.
Also known as ‘the cruise ship virus’, it is particularly damaging in dense populations, spreading through contact with contaminated faecal matter on unwashed food, unwashed hands, or a contaminated surface, and then touching your mouth.
The outbreak is believed to have started with contaminated ground water being used in food and beverages at the Horeb Youth Centre.
The average adult takes between 48 and 72 hours to recover from Norovirus, so the PyeongChang Games would be hit hard if athletes started contracting the bug and missing events.
It is already suffering from sluggish ticket sales (78% of its target) because of tensions on the peninsula and unbearably chilling temperatures.
Sasha Rearick, head coach of the US men’s Alpine ski team, told USA Today, that controlling their own environment is the key to keeping athletes in peak physical health.
“Here at the Games we don’t stay at the village; we stay at our own compound, where we have our own chefs cooking food,” she said.
“One part of that is to try to keep the home feeling. One of the things we do is cook American food that the guys like that’s also healthy. And then controlling our environment, where we try to minimise our exposure.
“Travel’s always a risky part; having more people around is risky so we try to avoid that. And really keeping that sense of family tight, where we’re taking care of each other.”
US curler Matt Hamilton added, “We’ve got a nutritionist plan that’s obviously pump the vitamin C and zinc. We have travel masks for when we’re on the plane for 14 hours in the recirculating air. There’s been a lot of coaching on what we should do to stay healthy.”
The KCDC has outlined measures being undertaken to prevent the outbreak worsening.
– Implementation of hygiene inspections by relevant organisations on accommodation, restaurants, drinking and tap water, and water purification plants (Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, Ministry of Environment, Gangwon Province, medical facilities, Gangwon Institute of Health and Environment, etc.).
– Monitoring of diarrhea patients and continuous epidemiological survey of those with similar symptoms (Korea Center for Disease Control, local health centres).
– Promotion of preventive measures such as distribution of hand sanitizers at major facilities, hand washing, etc.