Several times over the years I see media outlets use hyperbolic and sensationalized headlines and stories in serious topics in the world of outbreaks and infectious diseases. Whether it be about plague or Ebola, this type of news story inevitably occurs.
The latest come from the Sunday Express in the UK–the news source that frequently capitalizes all the letters of a word in their headlines. The story is entitled–Winter Olympics 2018 Norovirus OUTBREAK: Is North Korean bio-attack behind crippling bug?
Of course there has been a norovirus outbreak in PyeongChang, with the latest officials case count from the Korean Centers for Disease Control (KCDC) at 139 as of Saturday.
How is it linked to North Korea and why is it being questioned? Norovirus as a bioterrorism agent? Fears are now mounting that North Korea stands behind the attack?
The author of the article writes:
Mr Kim (Kim Hyun-jun, director of the Korea Centre for Disease Control & Prevention) said: “In order to stop the further outbreak of the virus, we’re quarantining patients beginning from the diagnosis to the treatment. We’re going to minimise this outbreak.”
The expert further underlined January and February are “peak seasons” for the winter flu, but some have pointed the finger at another potential culprit.
He then goes on to reference the Belfer Center study and some other quotes, none of them indicating an attack at the Olympics with the self-limiting virus, just general concerns on the country’s ability and capacity.
Outbreak News Today reached out to Professor at Laboure College in Milton, MA and biodefense and bioterrorism researcher, Lawrence Roberge PhD to get his thoughts on this topic.
I do not think it holds water, unless the medical community has a unique genetic fingerprint that points towards North Korea (NK). The more serious issue is that evidence has surfaced that NK has smallpox as well as the technology for anthrax. Norovirus would debilitate the edge for the athlete, but depending on when it arose, they could perhaps shake it off in time for their event. Furthermore, many parts of the world have norovirus outbreaks. Even in my state-Massachusetts-norovirus is at epidemic levels-along with the flu.