Norovirus spreads at Olympics; hand sanitizers little help



Forty-two more cases of norovirus have been confirmed at the 2018 Winter Olympics, bringing the complete to 128 on the eve of the start of the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Soohorang the white tiger is the official mascot of the 2018 Winter Olympics, and Bandabi the Asiatic black bear is the official mascot of the 2018 Winter Paralympics, both being staged in South Korea.

On Thursday, organizers put out hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer, requiring athletes and anyone else entering the cafeteria to use it, the New York Times reported. But numerous studies have portrayed such sanitizers do little to kill the norovirus.

Posters appeared all over the Olympic grounds, encouraging people to wash their hands and observe proper cough etiquette and other acts of personal hygiene.

More than 1,000 people have been quarantined as organizers rush to halt the spread of the virus, that can cause bouts of vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, the Times reported Thursday.

Earlier in the week, the South Korean military was called in to replace more than 1,000 security staff afflicted by the virus.

The outbreak started Feb. 1. A week later, 97 cases had been reported at Horeb Youth Centre, a dormitory that housed multiple local security staff members. Eleven more were in PyeongChang and 20 were in Gangneung, the Times reported.

Norovirus is the best common cause of acute gastroenteritis, or infection of the stomach and intestines, due to food poisoning. Highly contagious and active at low temperatures, norovirus causes stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. People become infected by eating or drinking contaminated substances, touching contaminated surfaces and coming into contact with an infected individual.

With a 24- to 48-hour incubation period, the virus can further cause muscle aches, headaches and fever. In severe cases, patients require hydration therapy.

There is no available vaccine or treatment options for the virus. Symptoms usually subside within one to three days.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control offers these tips to contest norovirus.


  • Always wash your hands carefully with soap and water after using the toilet or changing diapers and ahead of eating, preparing or handling food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing but should  not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly. Norovirus is relatively resistant and can survive temperatures as high as 140 degrees F and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish. Food that might be contaminated should be thrown out. Keep sick infants and children out of areas where food is being handled and prepared.
  • When you are sick from norovirus, do not prepare food or care for others and for at least two or three days after you recover.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately with a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 5–25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water, or an additional disinfectant registered as effective from norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Wash laundry that may be contaminated with vomit or feces immediately and thoroughly and wear rubber or disposable gloves although handling soiled items. Wash your hands after, and wash the items with detergent at the maximum available cycle length, then machine-dry them.

For additional information, see also: “South Korea calls military after nor hits guards at Olympics” 

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