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1,200 Security Guards Pulled From Olympic Duty Due to Norovirus Outbreak

Officials were lucky to be able to quarantine the outbreak before the games open on Friday.

1,200 Security Guards Pulled From Olympic Duty Due to Norovirus Outbreak
Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Just a few days away from opening, the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang are already taking a hit—and it's a big one! Norovirus has struck at least 41 security guards with complaints of vomiting and diarrhea. This highly contagious collection of viruses are some of the most difficult to combat and prevent.

That's because Norvirus is quickly and easily transmitted (if proper precautions are not taken), lives longer on surfaces than most other viruses, and it can reinfect its victims.

Facts that did not escape Olympic officials who pulled all 1,200 active security guards from duty to be tested for the virus. They also had to replace them—with 900 South Korean military troops.

Infographic: How Contagious is Norovirus?CDC Website

Reuters is reporting that Olympic officials are acting quickly to prevent a potential worst case scenario:

That is the first thing but you will have also hand sanitizers. All areas are getting disinfected. They (organizers) will be extremely diligent to sanitize anything that came into contact with the persons. Very stringent measures are in place when it comes to food and beverage.

But Hand Sanitizers are not enough.

In fact, someone should really clue them in that Norovirus cannot be killed with your garden variety hand sanitizers. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Noroviruses are resistant to many of the common household disinfectants and hand sanitizers people use.

Extremely hard to kill, Noroviruses infect about 20 million people each year and can live on countertops and utensils for as long as 2 weeks. Even foods stored at freezing temperatures can remain infected until they are heated to a temperature of about 140°F. The CDC recommends using cleaners that contain chlorine bleach or mixing up a homemade diluted bleach solution to effectively combat these types of viruses.

The CDC says:

Norviruses are a group of related viruses that can cause inflammation of the stomach or intestines, also known as gastroenteritis (GAS-tro-en-ter-I-tis). This leads to cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

This is the reason that, although all the guards who initially fell ill were housed in the same building, officials decided to pull the entire 1200 security detail in order to have them properly tested for the virus. Because the risk of potentially infected security staff coming in close contact with attendees and spreading traces of the virus that might be left on hands, clothing, or other surfaces could allow the virus to rapidly become a much more catastrophic public health issue.