The Louisiana Office of Public Health is investigating an outbreak of norovirus in the Lake Charles area that appears to be spreading in the 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.
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
“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.”
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
If you have recently become ill with diarrhea and/or vomiting, please 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, please call Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 1800-256-2748.