A nasty stomach bug is spreading at the 2018 Winter Olympics, according to news reports.
As of yesterday (Feb. 8), 128 cases of norovirus — a highly contagious infection that causes vomiting and diarrhea — were confirmed at Olympic sites, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the U.S., there are 19 million to 21 million cases of norovirus each year, on average, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
And norovirus particles can survive for days outside the body.
Indeed, some characteristics of norovirus have led one expert to deem it the “perfect human pathogen.”
“These viruses possess essentially all of the attributes of an ideal infectious agent: highly contagious, rapidly and prolifically shed, constantly evolving, evoking limited immunity and only moderately virulent, allowing most of those infected to fully recover, thereby maintaining a large susceptible pool of hosts,” Dr. Aron Hall, an epidemiologist on the viral gastroenteritis team at the CDC, wrote in a 2012 editorial published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.
In other words, the virus spreads easily and rapidly. It constantly evolves to evade the body’s immune system. And it doesn’t kill people, instead getting them sick enough to spread the virus further and then recover to live another day as a potential host.