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How norovirus cost a chance at gold

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
norovirus molecule

9th August 2017 -- Norovirus is one of the most common causes of upset stomachs and vomiting. Usually it causes a couple of days off school or work, but it has cost one elite athlete the chance of winning a medal at the London 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships.

Health officials from Public Health England (PHE) had been investigating after a number of athletes reported norovirus-like symptoms, including vomiting.


As well as being sick, the virus can also cause diarrhoea. Most people make a full recovery within a couple of days without specific treatment other than having plenty of fluids to avoid getting dehydrated. However, infected people can infect others through close contact or from surfaces they've touched. Norovirus can spread quickly where lots of people share the same spaces - such as cruise ships and hotels.

The outbreak was centred on a hotel used by several teams, but this was not found to be the source of the infection.

In a statement, Dr Deborah Turbitt, PHE London deputy director for health protection, said yesterday: "PHE has been notified of a confirmed outbreak of norovirus among people associated with the World Athletics Championships.

"We have so far been made aware of approximately 30 people reporting illness and 2 of these cases have been confirmed as norovirus by laboratory testing.

"PHE has been working closely with the London 2017 organisers and the hotel to provide infection control advice to limit the spread of illness."

Infection control

IAAF organisers took the decision to stop any affected athletes competing within 48 hours of becoming infected.

However, a very public disagreement played out on TV last night after Isaac Makwala from the Botswana (BOT) team was turned away from the London Stadium where he was due to run in the men's 400m final.

He became unwell at the weekend, but the way his case was handled and IAAF decisions were communicated with the athlete and his team management were disputed during coverage of the event on BBC TV last night.

The team disputed facts about medical reports and criticised the way the case was handled, saying the runner felt well enough to race and had been denied his chance of a medal.

In a statement issued last night, the IAAF says: "As per UK health regulations, it was requested that he be quarantined in his room for 48 hours, a period which ends at 14:00hrs tomorrow (9 Aug).

"These procedures are recommended by Public Health England and were clearly explained to the teams in writing."

The statement continues: "The decision to withdraw him from the 200m heats last night and the 400m final today was made on the basis of a medical examination conducted in the warm-up medical centre by a qualified doctor on Monday (7 Aug) and recorded in the electronic medical record system of the championships. A copy of this medical record was given to a member of the BOT team medical staff following the examination.

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