The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Health Alert


2018 Winter Olympics (PyeongChang 2018)

Updated February 21, 2018

An outbreak of norovirus was reported among security staff at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. You can get it from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. You can help to prevent norovirus by washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and before eating.

Key Points
Travelers to South Korea should be up-to-date on all routine vaccines to protect against diseases, including measles, mumps and seasonal flu, which are easily spread at crowded events.
This flu season has been more severe than previous seasons. Avoid close contact with sick people and wash your hands often with soap and water. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Travel only when you feel well.
Travelers should dress warmly as extremely cold temperatures are expected.
What is the current situation?
The 2018 Winter Olympics will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea, from February 9 to February 25, 2018. The Paralympic Games are scheduled for March 9 to March 18, 2018. If you plan to travel to South Korea for the Olympics or Paralympics, follow the recommendations below to help you stay safe and healthy.

What can travelers do to protect themselves?
Before your trip:
Schedule an appointment with a travel medicine clinic or your health-care provider at least 4–6 weeks before you depart. Talk to the doctor or nurse about vaccines and medicines recommended for your destination. See the Find a Clinic webpage for help in finding a travel medicine clinic near you.
Recommended vaccines to consider include hepatitis A, typhoid, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies.
CDC also recommends all travelers be up to date on routine vaccines, including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and influenza.
Medicine for travelers’ diarrhea may also be recommended.
Consider purchasing travel health and medical evacuation insurance.
Pack your prescription and over-the-counter medicines (as well as other important supplies), as part of a travel health kit.
Familiarize yourself with local laws and social customs.
Monitor travel warnings and alerts from the US Department of State. Register your trip with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get the latest safety and security information for your destination country.
Leave copies of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home, in case you lose them during travel.
During your trip:
Follow security and safety guidelines. US travelers may be targets for criminals at mass gatherings.
If possible, don’t travel at night, avoid questionable areas, and travel with a companion.
If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation. People are more likely to hurt themselves or other people, engage in risky sex, or get arrested when they have been drinking.
Carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp; leave the actual passport securely in your hotel.
Carry the contact information for the nearest US embassy or consulate in South Korea with you. Call 112 for emergency assistance or to report a crime to local authorities. Call 02-397-4114 to contact the U.S. Embassy.
Follow all local laws and social customs.
Do not wear expensive clothing or jewelry, to avoid the risk of theft or loss.
Always keep hotel doors locked, and store valuables in secure areas.
If possible, choose hotel rooms on the second through the sixth floors. A room on the first floor of a hotel may provide easier access for criminals. Rooms on the seventh floor or above may be difficult to escape if there’s a fire.
Protect yourself during cold temperatures. Average temperatures at the Winter Olympics are estimated to be around 33°F-35°F (1°C-2°C) during the day and 17°F (-8°C) during the night. Staying out in the cold too long can cause serious health problems such as frostbite, hypothermia, and other cold-related illnesses. Dress warmly with appropriate clothing and stay dry to reduce heat loss. Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Read more about ways to stay healthy in cold weather.
Eat and drink safely. Food and water standards in South Korea are similar to those in the United States. However, contaminated food or drinks can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other diseases. The risk of travelers’ diarrhea is, in general, higher at mass gatherings where people eat food from vendors that have been set up temporarily. Reduce your risk by eating only food that is cooked and served hot. Drink water, sodas, or sports drinks that are bottled and sealed or very hot coffee or tea. Get on-the-spot food and water advice in CDC’s Can I Eat This? app.
Do not touch birds or other animals, and avoid farms and poultry markets. Bird flu viruses have been seen in poultry (no human cases) in South Korea. Read more about bird flu prevention.
Use condoms to reduce your risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The celebratory atmosphere at the Olympics may encourage travelers to engage in risky sex, especially if they are drinking or using drugs. Carry condoms that you purchased in the United States and store them in a dry and cool place (out of direct sunlight). Read more about how to prevent STDs by visiting the Traveler STD page.
Choose safe transportation. Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of healthy US citizens in foreign countries. Read about ways to prevent transportation injuries by visiting the Road Safety page.
Reduce your exposure to germs. Wash your hands often, and avoid contact with people who are sick. Read more about reducing your exposure to germs in the Stay Healthy and Safe section of CDC’s South Korea page.
If you feel sick during your trip:
Talk to a doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.
Western-style medical facilities are available in most large cities in South Korea. However, not all doctors and staff are proficient in English. Check the US Embassy website for a list of English-speaking physicians.
For more information about medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad.
Avoid contact with other people while you are sick, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing utensils or cups.
Wash your hands often. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) to clean hands.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hand) when coughing or sneezing.
After your trip:
If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. If you need help finding a travel medicine specialist, see Find a Clinic. Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. Also tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal or were around any sick people while traveling. This will help your doctor understand your symptoms to consider infections that are rarely found in the United States.
For more information, see Getting Sick after Travel.
Traveler Information
Health Information for Travelers to South Korea
South Korea Information from the US Department of State
Clinical Information
Health Information for Healthcare Professionals
Page created: November 28, 2017
Page last updated: February 08, 2018
Page last reviewed: February 08, 2018
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)
Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ)