PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – The organizing committee for the Pyeongchang Olympics has called in 900 military personnel after more than 1,200 security workers were pulled off duty because of concerns about the spread of the Norovirus, Christophe Dubi, IOC executive director of the Olympic Games said Tuesday.
Later Tuesday evening, the organizing committee said 32 cases of Norovirus had been confirmed and those people were quarantined after being treated. Those 32 cases involve 21 private security staff members from the Horeb Youth Center and 11 people from other locations, including three foreigners.
In a statement, POCOG said that starting Sunday workers reported headaches, stomach pain and diarrhea. The Gangwon Province Health and Environment Research Center found 41 workers with symptoms that might be related to the virus. The others have been pulled from duty to prevent possible spreading of the illness.
The workers are largely responsible for checking credentials and screening baggage entering the venues. The military personnel were brought in from about 40 minutes away.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Norovirus is considered highly contagious and typically includes symptoms of diarrhea, stomach pain, vomiting and nausea.
The organizing committee said ground water used in food and beverages at the Horeb Youth Centre — a housing facility — was suspected. In a statement late Tuesday, the committee said the Ministry of Food And Drug Safety and Ministry of Environment had checked the water used for cooking and consumption over five days and found it tested negative for Norovirus.
On Monday, the Korean Centre for Disease Control and Prevention began a survey of everyone staying there. Those workers displaying symptoms will be sent to the hospital and those that do not will remain at the center until there are no further cases.
The affected workers have been isolated and asked to stay in their accommodations.
In their absence, 900 military personnel will work across 20 venues until the affected workers can return.
The organizing committee is working with the Korean CDC to stop the spread of the virus, including disinfecting facilities and equipment.
Organizers shared tips to help prevent the virus, which include washing hands with soap for more than 30 seconds, eating food that is thoroughly cooked and boiling water before drinking.
The spread of the virus explains why some media members had their hands sprayed with a disinfectant by workers at breakfast buffets in the media village.
As athletes continued to arrive in the Mountain and Coastal Clusters ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony, some were asked about any special measures they’re taking to stay healthy generally during cold and flu season.
Sasha Rearick, head coach of the U.S. men’s Alpine ski team, said frequent hand washing and taking vitamins are part of the usual plan.
“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,” Rearick added. “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 minimize 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.”
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