LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The Department of Health confirmed Thursday that the illnesses reported at L’auberge last weekend were from norovirus.
The Department of Health said it is investigating an outbreak of norovirus in the Lake Charles area that appears to be spreading in Calcasieu and Vernon parishes.
Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, regional medical director with the Department of Health, confirmed to KPLC that the norovirus was the cause of the sicknesses reported by people who attended events at L’auberge last weekend.
She did not provide a number of how many cases there have been.
“We know of at least two to three hundred, although some of the survey results are not back yet and some of the lab tests are still pending. But there were several hundred people at each of the events that occurred over the past couple of days, so we suspect it could be quite a large number,” said Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh says there were three events at L’auberge that people attended and later reported illness. But Cavanaough says what’s important is to stop the spread.
“How it started at this point doesn’t really matter anymore, because now we are getting transmission within the community. So, however people picked it up in that setting they are now taking it home and spreading it from one family member to another family member to another family member, so that is the real message that we need to get out today,” she said.
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.
Norovirus hits hard for 24-48 hours causing vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes fever. She emphasizes the importance of washing hands.
“There should be lots of hand washing and lots of precautions taken for a good while, even after people start to feel better,” said Cavanaugh.
She says people are contagious when they have symptoms and sometimes up to two or three weeks after symptoms are gone. And Cavanaugh says it’s important to clean surfaces that may be contaminated.
“If someone has an episode of vomiting or diarrhea surfaces infected need to be cleaned with bleach. Alcohol or sanitizer doesn’t do a great job of getting rid of this virus. It’s a hardy virus meaning that it’s more difficult to kill than some other viruses,” said Cavanaugh.
She says one cup of bleach to a gallon of water is generally the right mix to disinfect, but that could vary depending on the surface to be cleaned.
“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.”
Here is more on norovirus, from the Department of Health:
People of all ages can become ill from norovirus as 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
Symptoms, which typically begin 24 to 48 hours after being infected and usually last one to two days, include:
- Abdominal pain
- Body aches
- A run-down feeling
- Mild fever
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