Quinn Rooney/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Can Olympic Athletes Compete If They’re Sick? Norovirus & The Flu Have Hit The PyeongChang Winter Olympics

Ad failed to load

As if the South Korean Olympic Committee didn’t have enough to worry about — with North Korea scheduling a huge military parade the day before the opening ceremony, and winter temperatures plunging — they’re now contending with a serious norovirus outbreak, and just a couple weeks ago there were multiple reports of a flu outbreak in South Korea as well. With athletes already on the ground in PyeongChang, many are wondering what will happen if they start succumbing to the horrific stomach bug or influenza — can Olympic athletes compete if they’re sick?

Approximately 1,200 security guards have been waylaid by the highly contagious norovirus, and 41 have been hospitalized because of it, reported Time. Last winter I had the norovirus and for the sake of all Olympic athletes (and spectators), I hope they contain this thing — and quick. The norovirus, also known as the "winter vomiting bug" is the flu on steroids. I'm talking hard-to-keep-saltines-down, sleep-on-the-bathroom-floor awful. Having the norovirus taught me firsthand what "shuking" is. Not pretty.

What's more, the norovirus has an abrupt onset (I can attest from personal experience that "abrupt" is an understatement), and can last anywhere between one and three days, according to WebMD. You can get it by consuming contaminated foods or drinks, or by coming in contact with a surface infected with it. It’s kind of like food poisoning that you can also get by touching a door knob — ye gods!

Ad failed to load

So how is the Olympic Committee dealing with the outbreak? The 1,200 infected security guards have been isolated and replaced with 900 military soldiers, according to CNN. Reuters reported that workers are disinfecting all Olympic accommodations and buses, and hand sanitizer stations are being installed throughout the grounds.

In a statement Monday, the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said they had "dispatched an immediate response team to the PyeongChang site to check additional people for symptoms, check the origin of the exposure, take measures to control infection and prevent spread."

Ad failed to load

Athletes train almost their entire lives for a chance at Olympic Gold so what happens if illness strikes at the most inopportune time? The 2017 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships, held this past summer in London, present the best example of what we can expect if athletes start getting hit with the norovirus at the 2018 Olympics. At least 30 athletes and team mates were hit with the norovirus in London and several top athletes were forced to drop out, reported The Guardian — dashing their hopes of taking home a medal.

The timing of the norovirus outbreak was so horrible that conspiracy theories even started to crop up. One athlete named Isaac Makwala, a Botswatan 200-meter sprinter, was forced by the IAAF to withdraw from competition due to his illness, effectively favoring his top competitor. But Makwala, who claimed he was never tested for the virus and maintained that he was fit to compete, told the BBC, "The way they [handled my situation], there’s something they don’t want to tell us... There’s something fishy.”

Ad failed to load

The norovirus is most definitely foul but fortunately no one is making claims of foul play in PyeongChang. Hopefully some lessons were learned from the 2017 World Championships. A statement from the IAFF, in response to the norovirus outbreak in London, said that they had issued "standard procedure for such an occurrence where a number of teams are occupying championship accommodation.”

Each nation's sport team usually has at least one doctor, or at least one general physician per country represented at the Olympic Games, according to Today. There is also a centralized clinic in the Olympic Village, shared former Olympic swimmer Bryan Kim. Though for contagious illnesses, an athlete would most likely be treated in isolation, as American bobsledder Lolo Jones who fell ill during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  

Ad failed to load

I'll be keeping my (hand-sanitized) fingers crossed that all of the athletes stay healthy and norovirus-free.

Ad failed to load

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.  

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Umm, Toys "R" Us Has A BOGO 50 Percent Off Deal So You Better Stock Up

After the holidays, you were probably hoping that your kid's massive toy collection would keep him entertained for a little while, at least. But that was wishful thinking, wasn't it? Because now that a couple of months have passed, all those must-hav…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Surviving Winter

As I sit here at my home office in Connecticut, it's cold. Damn cold. Winter is a rough season in New England and it's even worse when you're a parent and have to manage cooped up, restless children. It's even worse when you're a hot mess as it is, u…
By Jamie Kenney

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

8 Reasons I Let My Toddler Play Outside Unsupervised

I'm not a helicopter mom, but I'm not exactly a free-range parent either. I like to think of myself as safely ensconced somewhere in the middle. I insist on certain safety measures, like car seats and helmets. I prefer to keep my 2-year-old in my sig…
By Kimmie Fink

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack