At least 200 sickened by norovirus at Lake Charles casino, LDH monitoring spread

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FILE ** This undated Negative-stain Transmission Electron Microscopy image, provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA, shows a Norovirus, also known as the Norwalk Virus. Norovirus is a genus of viruses of the family Caliciviridae. (AP Photo/F.P. Williams, U.S. EPA)

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Health officials are monitoring an outbreak of norovirus spreading through South Louisiana that has sickened at least 200 people at a Lake Charles casino.

The Louisiana Department of Health says the number may be much higher, but the lab tests are not all back yet. L’Auberge Casino has hosted several large events over the past few days where the virus could have spread among the hundreds who attended.

On Tuesday, the LDH confirmed they are investigating the outbreak, saying those already ill appear to also be spreading in Calcasieu and Vernon Parishes.

The CDC and state health officials say norovirus is a highly contagious type of gastrointestinal illness or stomach virus, that is spread easily from person to person. Illness caused by norovirus is often mistakenly called “stomach flu.” However, norovirus is not related to influenza.

HOW NOROVIRUS SPREADS

It can be dangerous for the elderly, very young, or those with compromised immune systems, but people of all ages can become ill from norovirus at it is easily spread in several ways, including:

  • Having direct contact with an ill person, such as by caring for them or sharing food or utensils with them
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then putting your hands in your mouth
  • Consuming contaminated food or water

“People with norovirus can easily spread the illness from the moment they begin experiencing symptoms to several days after they recover,” said Dr. Frank Welch, immunization director for the Louisiana Department of Health. “Some people can continue to spread norovirus for up to three weeks. There are no medications to prevent norovirus, which is why frequent handwashing is your best protection.”

NOROVIRUS SYMPTOMS

Symptoms, which typically begin 24 to 48 hours after being infected and usually last one to two days, include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • A run-down feeling
  • Mild fever

HOW TO KEEP IT FROM SPREADING:

Take the following steps to prevent spreading the illness:

  • Stay home from school or work for 24 hours after vomiting and diarrhea have stopped.
  • If you are a food handler, stay home from work for 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.
  • Healthcare providers and those who work with children should also stay home for 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and warm water, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers, before eating, preparing or handling food and before giving yourself or someone else medicine. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to, but not in lieu of, washing your hands with soap and water. 
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and soiled surfaces with bleach-based household cleaners.
  • Wash clothing thoroughly in hot water if it is soiled with diarrhea or vomit:
  • Handle soiled items carefully without agitating them
  • Wear rubber or disposable gloves when handling soiled items and wash hands after
  • Wash the items with detergent and hot water at the maximum available cycle length then machine dry at the highest heat setting

IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE NOROVIRUS:

If you have recently become ill with diarrhea and/or vomiting, the Louisiana Department of Health asks that you complete this brief online survey to aid in the investigation. More information on norovirus can be found here, and detailed cleaning instructions can be found here. If you have any questions or require assistance, you can call Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 1-800-256-2748.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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