Winter Olympics 2018: Norovirus Outbreak in South Korea Takes 1,200 Guards off Duty

Over 1,000 Winter Olympic security guards in Pyeongchang, South Korea have been forced out of duty two days before the first Olympic events because of a sudden outbreak of norovirus, or an infection characterized by severe vomiting or diarrhea.

CNN reports that in response, South Korea has deployed 900 military personnel to help replace the ill security staff. Forty-one of the guards stationed in Pyeongchang for this month's 2018 Games had been taken to the hospital and a total of 1,200 were then removed from duty "to prevent the spread of the disease."

"The military personnel ... will be responsible for security checks of the 20 venues as they take up jobs such as security searches, previously done by civilian safety personnel, until the patients' condition is normalized," a statement from the Pyeongchang Olympics committee said.

All the civilian guards were in a stable condition, according to the statement. Organizers said that all Olympic accommodations and buses were being disinfected.

The 41 hospitalized security guards had been staying in the same building in Pyeongchang, according to the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

"KCDC dispatched an immediate response team to the Pyeongchang site to check additional people for symptoms, check the origin of the exposure, take measures to control infection and prevent spread," a statement from the KCDC said.

It's not clear how the guards become infected in the first place.

Water and food at the accommodations are currently being tested, while the Winter Olympics committee said it would strengthen checks on sleeping quarters for staff working at the games to prevent further infections.

The first Olympic events are set to be held on Thursday, February 8 with the first day of competition in curling and ski jumping.

The Opening Ceremony is Friday, Feb. 9 at 6 a.m. ET. You can also watch the ceremony during NBC's primetime coverage Friday at 8 p.m ET.

The final day of competition — Sunday, Feb. 25 — will include the men's ice hockey finals as well as the Closing Ceremony, which airs at 8 a.m. ET.

The 2018 Winter Olympics will be broadcast by NBC. You can watch most of its coverage on NBC or NBC Sports, but additional coverage will be on CNBC and USA Network. The network will have live-streaming coverage on NBCSports.com and NBCOlympics.com. Live streaming coverage is also available on fuboTV.

The Olympic Channel makes its debut in 2018, and NBC will have 20 hours of Olympics coverage daily on it.

You can also stream every event or watch on-demand on your mobile device, tablet or connected TV by downloading the NBC Sports app.

Spectators at the open-air Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium will brave extreme cold with temperatures near zero degrees. Pyeongchang is about 80 miles east of Seoul — South Korea's capital — and 60 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. It is 14 hours ahead of New York, 15 hours ahead of Chicago and 17 hours ahead of Los Angeles.

Click here for the full event schedule for the 2018 Winter Games.