Stomach pain, diarrhea, headaches, sweating, fever, chills, vomiting — yep, it's the dreaded norovirus. If you've ever been struck down by this bug, then you know it's no joke. No one is immune, and norovirus is spreading among athletes at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. While norovirus has been previously reported at Olympic sites, the nasty stomach bug that Live Science calls the "perfect human pathogen" is starting to take down athletes as well as spectators. While it's not clear if U.S. Olympic athletes are affected, the Swiss Olympic team released a statement detailing that two of its athletes have come down with norovirus.
"The athletes concerned were immediately brought to single rooms and had no contact with the other athletes," the Swiss Olympic team said in its statement. "They have also been taken care of by the Swiss Olympic medical team and no longer have any symptoms of the virus." If you've been lucky enough to avoid this highly contagious stomach bug, or you're not sure what it is, norovirus is what's often referred to as the stomach flu (though it's not actually related to influenza), Live Science reported.
Named after Norwalk, Ohio, where the first outbreak was recorded in 1968, norovirus causes gastrointestinal distress, fever, chills, vomiting, and other unpleasant symptoms. As someone who caught it last year from eating contaminated food, I liken it to having the worst hangover of your life times 10.
Aside from being just plain miserable, norovirus spreads just as fast as the flu. You can can catch it from eating food prepared by someone who has norovirus, drinking contaminated water, shaking hands, or touching contaminated surfaces. This why the virus is often reported in highly populated enclosed areas, like cruise ships. In the wake of norvirus being reported in Olympic athletes, the Swiss team said that it's taking all of the necessary precautions to stop the virus from spreading.
"The whole Swiss delegation was encouraged to follow the appropriate hygiene measures (wash your hands regularly and for a long time with soap, disinfect your hands with a disinfectant, do not shake hands, etc.)," the Swiss Olympic team said. "We believe that these two cases will remain the only ones and that the two athletes will be completely completed soon."
The statement went on to the say that the two athletes who are recovering from norvirus will still be allowed to compete under strict measures imposed by the International Olympic Committee. Additionally, TIME magazine noted that American skier Mikaela Shiffrin reportedly vomited before competition and said she suspected she might have the virus. However, her symptoms were later confirmed to be anxiety versus norovirus.
While having norovirus can make you feel like you're dying, Live Science explained that the horror only lasts a few days. "Though these symptoms can be severe, they are usually short-lived, and most people recover within two days," Marc Lallanilla and Rachael Rettner wrote. However, the Centers for Disease Control noted that you can still spread norovirus even after your symptoms subside, which is why proper hand washing and disinfecting hard surfaces is vital.
Late last year, Newsweek reported that hundreds of people contracted norovirus on a cruise ship, and the CDC confirmed that the virus spreads quickly in places like cruise ships, schools, daycare centers, and offices. Unlike the flu, there is currently no vaccine for norovirus, though Live Science noted that one is currently being developed. If you suspect you have norovirus, there's little you can do except wait it out. Make sure you drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration, get plenty of sleep, and isolate yourself from others.
The CDC also recommends washing bed sheets, towels, clothes, and anything else you might have come into contact with while you were sick. Most norovirus outbreaks happen between November and April, the CDC reported, which coincides with flu season. The good news is that we only have two more months to go. Until then, avoid shaking anyone's hand, and make soap and disinfectant your new best friends.