Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field

Canadian team moving track athletes from hotel due to stomach virus

Canada is moving some of its athletes to new accommodations at the world track and field championships because of the stomach bug that has plagued the team.

Team doctor says 9 Canadian athletes and staff have come down with viral gastroenteritis

Aaron Brown was one of nine Canadian athletes and staff to have come down with viral gastroenteritis, believed to be the Norwalk virus. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Canada is moving some of its athletes to new accommodations at the world track and field championships because of the stomach bug that has plagued the team.

Athletes still to arrive in town will stay at a different hotel than the one in central London, where nine Canadian athletes and staff members have become ill, Canadian team doctor Paddy McCluskey said Tuesday.

And several Canadian athletes have been moved to higher floors in the hotel.

"We've been able to accommodate that for not everyone, but for a number of people," McCluskey said on moving to higher rooms. "Unfortunately the hotel has a limited number of beds available, there's over 900 guests here. . . and so the logistics are that they're running out of space in general."

Canadian Eric Gillis dropped out of Sunday's marathon around the 30-kilometre mark a couple of days after falling ill, and sprinter Aaron Brown said he'd been quarantined after catching the norovirus, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, a low-grade fever and abdominal pain.

"The last two days have been better for us in terms of new cases, so I'm really hopeful we're coming out the other end," McCluskey said. "You always have to be really diligent about these kinds of things, maintain strict hand washing, and so we're doing our best in that. But I'm really hopeful that we're through the worst of it."

Norovirus is tough on athletes' bodies, McCluskey said, because it causes fluid and electrolyte loss.

"And independent of the symptoms, those can have an impact on fatigue and the zip and energy that you feel," he said. "We have taken precautions and measures to allow people to try to replenish those electrolytes.

"Athletes that have been affected have been performing better than expected, to be fair. And so we've been happy with that."

Brown recovered to run his heat of the 200, but was disqualified for a lane violation. Afterward he described the stomach virus saying "I was in my room the entire day in the dark like I was a vampire.

"It hit at night, couldn't sleep, aching stomach. Felt like the movie 'Alien,' when they breed the alien and the thing's running around inside. It felt like that. I was holding my stomach the entire night."

Hotel denies being source of illness

The London hotel at the centre of the outbreak that has struck down scores of competitors at the world 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. 

30 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 organisers 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.

"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."

Plenty of athletes affected

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

"Those affected have been supported by both team and LOC medical staff, in addition we have been working with Public Health England to ensure the situation is managed and contained," the organising committee said in a statement.

One of the highest-profile victims was Botswana's Isaac Makwala, who was withdrawn from the 200m 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.

"According to IAAF medics I am apparently suffering from food poisoning which has affected several other athletes in the athletes' hotel," Makwala wrote on his Facebook page late on "Lets hope they will allow me to run my final tomorrow."

Irish athletes were staying at the Tower and their 400m hurdler Thomas Barr was another to suffer, missing his semifinal on Monday.

"I wasn't feeling great yesterday evening and later in the night I was hit with a bout of gastroenteritis," he said. "My whole year has been focused on the World Championships and to not be able to go out and compete for Ireland today is beyond disappointing."

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.

With files from Thomson Reuters

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