1200 private citizens were removed from their security detail jobs at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang because 41 of them had a stomach bug, they were replaced by military personnel. Why would the Korean government take such drastic measures for such a seemingly innocuous issue? Well, the Korean government knows exactly what they are doing. This “stomach flu” or “food poisoning” is actually caused by an extremely contagious virus called Norovirus. The problem is this virus is not like other bacterial illnesses that you can just cook or sanitize away. Viruses aren’t alive like bacteria so they can’t really be killed, they also don’t reproduce like bacteria do on our food, they hijack our intestinal cells by convincing our human cells to make copies of themselves.
The disease is spread from people to people, most commonly through the fecal-oral route, which is why the Korean government quarantined not only those who were infected but also those who may have eaten the same food as those who were infected. Even though the cause has yet to be determined we will more than likely find that some cook was sick and did not report it and continued to serve food to the security personnel. From there it becomes easy to transmit because those people were all sleeping in the same quarters as one another, using the same bathrooms and eating in the same cafeterias. The Korean health officials should be applauded for these extreme measures because these are the last people we need rifling through the bags and patting down the onlookers at the Olympic events.
The good news is the symptoms of this disease come on rapidly and can be quite violent but they tend to also go away very quickly. 24 hours after all symptoms have subsided the security personnel should be able to return to their regular duties with no issues as long as good personal hygiene measures such as strong hand washing practices are followed. The Korean CDC is also passing around literature regarding the illness and its prevention but if I were in charge there I would also make hand washing stations highly visible and accessible to those working at and attending the games.