Monday 18 December 2017

Athletics Ireland relocate athletes as norovirus spreads among London 2017 World Championships competitors

IAAF World Championships; Day 4; General view of the London Stadium during the 200 metres men's round 1 race (Photo by John Patrick Fletcher/Action Plus via Getty Images)
IAAF World Championships; Day 4; General view of the London Stadium during the 200 metres men's round 1 race (Photo by John Patrick Fletcher/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Matt McGeehan

Public Health England believes norovirus is spreading among London 2017 World Championships competitors and officials after an outbreak was identified at an official hotel.

Competition organisers confirmed on Monday night that several London 2017 competitors - staying at the same official team hotel - had suffered gastroenteritis.

A spokesperson for the Tower Hotel on Tuesday morning insisted it was "not the source of the illness".

And Public Health England on Tuesday said around 30 people had been affected, with laboratory testing revealing norovirus in two cases.

Public Health England believes there are connected cases at other hotels accommodating those involved in the championships, which are taking place in the London Stadium.

One Irish athlete, Thomas Barr, a 400 metres hurdler, has been affected and Athletics Ireland said its athletes yet to compete and yet to arrive in London will be housed in alternative accommodation so as not to mix with anyone potentially infected.

Norovirus is an unpleasant but rarely serious illness often caught through close contact or by touching contaminated surfaces or objects.

It can result in vomiting and diarrhoea, and those affected are encouraged to drink fluids to avoid dehydration.

Most people make a full recovery within one or two days, but it may be debilitating for those affected athletes scheduled to compete here.

Public Health England London deputy director for health protection Dr Deborah Turbitt said: "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 two 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."

Botswana's Isaac Makwala, a 400m medal prospect, was given medical dispensation to withdraw from the 200m heats on Monday night after reportedly suffering food poisoning. Without a valid reason for pulling out, he could have been disqualified from the 400m final which takes place later on Tuesday.

The Tower Hotel on Tuesday morning said it was working with the relevant authorities, including the IAAF, world athletics' governing body, over the outbreak.

A spokesperson from the Tower Hotel said in a statement: "Regretfully a small number of our guests have been suffering from an illness.

"We have worked collaboratively with the EHO (Environmental Health Officer) and IAAF to investigate the origins of the illness and can confirm that the hotel was not the source of the illness.

"We continue to liaise with the medical authorities and the IAAF to ensure the comfort of those guests affected and the health and well-being of all our guests remains a priority."

Athletics Ireland, though, is taking additional measures.

"All Irish athletes yet to compete have yet to arrive in London and will be put in alternative accommodation, thereby eliminating any contact with those who may potentially have been exposed to the virus," Athletics Ireland said in a statement.

"Athletes who have finished competing already have been offered a flight home to protect their health.

"Athletics Ireland's medical team has been in constant contact with the IAAF medical team and have implemented all appropriate protocols to protect the health of the Irish athletes. Thomas Barr is the only Irish athlete who has been affected."

Barr qualified for the 400m hurdles semi-finals on Monday night but did not start the race.

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