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Hotel says it’s not to blame for athletes’ stomach bug

Published: Updated:

A London hotel at the center of an outbreak of sickness that has struck down scores of competitors at the World Athletics Championships said on Tuesday it was not the source of the illness.

Several Botswana, German, Canadian, Irish and Puerto Rican athletes staying at the Tower Hotel, near Tower Bridge, have been taken ill over the last few days, with some put into effective quarantine and others forced to miss their events.

Thirty German competitors arriving on Tuesday, as well as Olympic javelin champion Thomas Rohler who arrived on Monday, have been moved to other hotels.

“It is purely a precautionary measure,” German team spokesman Peter Schmitt said.

Competition organizers said on Monday that the illnesses were a result of gastroenteritis, but public health officials said on Tuesday that laboratory tests have confirmed two cases of norovirus among approximately 30 illness victims.

Norovirus, sometimes called “the winter vomiting bug,” is easily spread, partly because the virus can survive for several days outside the body, Britain’s National Health Service says.

“The main issue facing the organisers will be one of trying to attain swift containment, which will be pretty challenging due to the nature of the virus,” Shirley Kirnon, a lecturer in Infection Control at Birmingham City University, said.

“It is highly infectious. For those affected, symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea can occur within a relatively short period of time; approximately 12-48 hours after exposure.”

Tower Hotel, used annually as the base for the London Marathon, said in a statement: “We have worked collaboratively with the EHO (Environmental Health Officer) and the IAAF to investigate the origins of the illness and can confirm that the hotel was not the source.

Hygiene protocol

“We have followed strict hygiene protocol, ensuring that those affected are not in contact with other guests and all public areas have been thoroughly sanitised.”

London 2017 organisers said on Monday night that a number of teams had reported cases of gastroenteritis.

One of the highest-profile victims was Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, who was withdrawn from the 200-metre heats on Monday after vomiting in the call room where athletes make their final preparations.

Makwala is now hoping to be cleared to race in Tuesday’s 400m final, where he had been among the main threats to world record holder Wayde van Niekerk.

Irish athletes were staying at the Tower, and their 400m hurdler Thomas Barr was another to suffer, missing his semi-final on Monday.
At least seven Canadians were affected, including Eric Gillis, who was forced to drop out of Sunday’s marathon after around 20 miles.

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson was also physically sick before the 100 metres final on Sunday, though the Jamaican said that was not unusual for her and hadn’t had any effect on her below-par performance. She finished fifth.