Dozens of athletes competing at the World Athletics Championships appear to have been struck by an outbreak of norovirus, disrupting the annual competition taking place in London this week. On Tuesday, Public Health England confirmed that 30 people associated with the event have complained of illness, with two cases of norovirus confirmed following tests.
The illness can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and though not considered serious to a person’s long-term health it will make it nearly impossible for athletes to compete at peak performance. The International Association of Athletics Federations, which runs the championships, said it could only confirm that one athlete had been affected by the virus — Isaac Makwala of Botswana, a runner who was expected to challenge South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk in the final of the men’s 400m.
Makwala may be able to compete later in the championships, if he recovers in time. On Monday, Irishman Thomas Barr, who had qualified for the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles, said sickness had forced him to withdraw from competition altogether. “I wasn’t feeling great yesterday evening and later in the night I was hit with a bad bout of gastroenteritis,” he said. “My whole year has been focused on the World Championships.
The support yesterday was just brilliant and to not be able to go out and compete today for Ireland is beyond disappointing.” Other athletes have displayed symptoms of the stomach virus, which may have affected their performance. In the women’s 100m final on Sunday, Elaine Thompson of Jamaica, the current Olympic champion over the distance, finished in fifth place.
She revealed afterwards that she had vomited before the race, but has refused to blame illness for her defeat. Javier Culson of Puerto Rico, an Olympic bronze medallist, said he had “felt bad with . . . food” the night before the heats of the 400m hurdles, where he was eliminated. Reports suggest the virus has also struck members of the German, Canadian and Irish teams who are staying at The Tower Hotel, part of the Guoman chain, which is being used by championships organisers for official accommodation.
The hotel, near London’s Tower Bridge, confirmed that some of its guests have been affected, but added that health authorities said the building was “not the source of the illness.” “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,” the hotel said in a statement.