IOC Medical and Scientific Director, Dr Richard Budgett, advises on the Coronavirus

Published on: Feb 25, 2020 at 14:56

IOC Medical and Scientific Director, Dr Richard Budgett, an Olympic Gold medallist from Los Angeles 1984, has some advice regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) for competing athletes and those currently trying to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. 

How contagious is the Coronavirus? What are the symptoms?

There is evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted in the same way as seasonal ‘flu and common colds by droplets from sneezing and coughing.  This means staying within a meter of an infected person for more than an hour puts you more at risk.  There is no evidence of other routes of infection.  The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.

Most people infected have very mild symptoms and recover quickly.  Those with pre-existing conditions or the elderly are most at risk of severe infection.

Where is the best place to find information and advice?

The WHO website and CDC website give accurate and up to date information.

I am trying to qualify for Tokyo 2020, is there a chance that my qualification event has competitors who could be infected? And if so is it still safe for me to compete against athletes from areas that have been impacted?

The risk to personal health is extremely small.  The chances of catching a cold or getting the flu are much higher.  Most athletes from affected countries have been kept in training camps or are competing and travelling abroad, so are at no higher risk of infection.  To put the risk from COVID-19 in perspective there will be about 5 million cases of severe illness and 500,000 deaths worldwide due to seasonal flu and not COVID-19.

Is there any advice you would provide to athletes specifically on taking precautions?

1. Practice good hygiene as advised by WHO. (See below)  This will help reduce the risk of all respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses (as well as COVID-19).

2. Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

3. Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

4. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

5. Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

6. Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

7. Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow the advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Are there any concerns with using equipment from China?

There is no risk of infection from this source.

What measures should we take at hotels and accommodation sites?

Practice good hygiene as advised by WHO.

How long do you expect sporting events to be affected by this? 

It is not possible to predict how long the outbreak will last. Previous novel coronavirus outbreaks (such as SARS) lasted 6-9 months, but experts are hopeful this outbreak will resolve quicker.