• By Joel Streed

Norovirus: Olympic outbreak can happen anywhere

February 9, 2018

a word definition for norovirus with medicine pills on the paper

With today's opening ceremonies, the pomp and pageantry of the Winter Olympic Games is on full display. But many people who are at the games are feeling a little less celebratory due to an outbreak of norovirus.

"Norovirus is a virus that causes viral gastroenteritis, meaning an infection of the gastrointestinal system," says Dr. Pritish Tosh, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist. "People often will get diarrhea and vomiting. Often, it lasts just a day or so, and people get better. They need to maintain good fluids intake and plenty of rest."

Now for most people, the closest you're going to get to the Olympic Games is watching the action on TV, so why should you worry?  Norovirus infection can happen anywhere, but it occurs most frequently in closed and crowded environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, child care centers, schools and cruise ships. The virus is commonly spread through food or water that is contaminated during preparation or contaminated surfaces. You can also be infected through close contact with an infected person.

Watch: Dr. Tosh explains norovirus.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites are in the downloads.

"Most people who get norovirus get better on their own within a day or two," says Dr. Tosh. "Now, it’s a pretty uncomfortable day or two, and it’s important that people maintain good fluid intake. Plain water is often enough, but if that fluid loss is more, maintaining a good electrolyte balance is also going to be important." He adds that dehydration can be an issue due to diarrhea, so consuming a sports drink containing electrolytes may also help.

Because it is so contagious, Dr. Tosh advises people to use good hand hygiene to avoid contact with the virus, especially when handling food.