It was, perhaps, inevitable. Nearly 30,000 youngsters from all over the world are in Oslo this week for the huge, international Norway Cup football (soccer) tournament. Now six of them have confirmed cases of swine flu, and tournament officials are doing all they can to stop the illness from spreading.
It’s not easy at an event that involves living together in close quarters, eating in large cafeterias, hugging new and old friends and taking part in a sport that involves physical contact and traditional hand greetings. The latter, at least, has now been banned.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported early Tuesday that a 10-year-old boy from Kenya had tested positive for swine flu. He was being cared for in isolation at a special medical facility set up specifically to deal with any cases of flu that seemed bound to emerge. On Tuesday afternoon, a girl from Rogaland in western Norway also tested positive for swine flu, and on Wednesday came reports that another Norwegian girl was ill with swine flu as well. Three more cases were confirmed during the day and one Norwegian team traveled home.
Tournament officials have taken the flu threat seriously and made preparations for dealing with the disease. A school adjacent to the main playing fields on Oslo’s Ekeberg plateau was converted to a field hospital. State health authorities and medical personnel are on hand to treat cases that come up.Organizers of the huge tournament, which involves participants from a record 53 countries, also had concentrated on preventive measures. Everyone entering the meal halls, for example, has been met by personnel armed with hand disinfectant spray.
“Good hand hygiene is alpha and omega for fighting any infection outbreak in general,” Frode Hansen of Norwegian People’s Aid (Norsk Folkehjelp) told newspaper Dagsavisen before the tournament began on Sunday.
The tournament is going on as scheduled, albeit without the traditional hand greetings after matches. Officials told NRK they feel they “have control” over the situation and Petter Schou, chief county medical officer for Oslo and Akershus, has said the tournament will be halted only if there’s a “serious” outbreak of the flu.
An annual 4H summer camp at Gloppen in the mountains of Sogn og Fjordane County was shut down over the weekend after more than 50 campers came down with the flu. All 1,300 Norwegian campers had left the camp by Sunday afternoon, while many of the 400 campers from abroad were still trying to arrange early transport home.
State health officials had registered 249 confirmed cases of swine flu in Norway as of Tuesday morning.