THURSDAY, Feb. 8, 2018 (HealthDay News) — With the Winter Olympics set to start Friday, South Korean officials are scrambling to find the source of a nasty stomach infection called norovirus that has sickened 128 people so far.
South Korean health officials said Thursday that the new cases included members of the Pyeongchang Olympics Organizing Committee, as well as on-site personnel and cafeteria workers. This shows the highly contagious virus has spread beyond the security personnel who were the first to test positive, The New York Times reported Thursday.
No athletes are thought to have been sickened by the virus.
"We are still testing the food and water in all three venues," Hong Jeong-ik, who's with South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Times. "But we still haven't figured out the source yet. It's going to take some time."
An investigation into the outbreak began after 41 security guards developed diarrhea and vomiting. Food and water sources were being inspected at a mountainside facility in Pyeongchang, where the guards were staying, the Associated Press reported.
Norovirus — sometimes dubbed the cruise ship virus — is a highly contagious virus that can be transmitted by an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes inflammation in the stomach or intestines or both.
Symptoms can include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said norovirus is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis (often called stomach flu), affecting people of all ages.
It's often transmitted by food or water contaminated with feces, and through person-to-person contact, he said.
The virus also can be transmitted person-to-person by aerosolized particles. Simply flushing the toilet can be a source of transmission many people don't consider, Glatter said.
The norovirus often spreads in cruise ships, nursing homes and day care centers — areas with close living quarters, he said.
There's no specific medicine to treat norovirus, according to the CDC, and it can't be treated with antibiotics because it's a viral — not a bacterial — infection.
Those who are sickened by the virus should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhea. This will help prevent dehydration.
Dehydration can lead to serious problems and can potentially require hospitalization for treatment with intravenous fluids, according to the CDC.
Sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration, the agency suggests.
For more on norovirus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.