What is Norovirus? Outbreak spreading in west Louisiana


CALCASIEU AND VERNON PARISHES, LA — The Louisiana Office of Public Health is investigating an outbreak of norovirus. It has already infected hundreds of people.

Doctors believe the outbreak originated from a Mardi Gras ball last weekend at L’Auberge Casino in Lake Charles, but the highly contagious virus appears to be spreading across Calcasieu and Vernon Parishes.

It might not be the biggest name in viruses in 2020, but west of Acadiana, it’s the norovirus physicians say you should be most worried about. Medical doctors like Nichole Miller, with Lafayette General Urgent Care, said while the coronavirus and flu have similar cough and congestion symptoms, norovirus has its own set.

“Norovirus and coronavirus are both viruses, but overall that’s about as much similarity it has,” explained Dr. Miller. “Norovirus you’re looking for that vomiting and diarrhea, and usually it’s very intense,”

Known mostly for its outbreaks on cruise ships, norovirus is not only intense, but highly contagious on surfaces, clothes, furniture, and anything touched by an unwashed hand.

“Believe it or not, if someone is sick with norovirus, in their vomit or diarrhea is millions and millions of norovirus particles, and you only need 10 of them to get sick,” warned Dr. Frank Welch, Medical Director for The Bureau of Community Preparedness for the Louisiana Office of Public Health.

He issued an alert Thursday after many reported stomach-related-illnesses earlier this week, “There are several hundred, and now these people have gone back into their communities, so we expect more than that.”

The greatest risk when fighting norovirus is dehydration. The good news is symptoms only last a couple of days. Unfortunately, the virus can still spread as long as weeks after someone feels better.

“The state is taking this very, very seriously. We’re monitoring the situation. We’re working with the facility. We’re monitoring the community for the health care impact,” assured Dr. Welch.

According to Louisiana’s Health Department, L’Auberge Casino in Lake Charles is undergoing an extensive cleaning procedure of the entire facility.

L’auberge General Manager Michael Pendergast released the following statement on Tuesday:

“L’Auberge du Lac is aware of reported incidents of a stomach-related illness among a few guests and team members. The comfort and safety of our guests and team members is always our paramount concern, and we are cooperating fully with state health officials who are looking into the reports. In the meantime, we have stringent sanitation procedures in place. In addition, we are reminding guests and team members to regularly wash their hands and take other health safety precautions. We’ll be continuing to monitor the situation closely.”

L’auberge General Manager Michael Pendergast

If you don’t know anyone with norovirus your best protection is cleanliness, washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water. If you are recovering from norovirus, deep clean your bedroom, bathroom, clothes, and more to make sure your environment is virus-free and won’t contaminate your loved ones.

Anytime there’s a concern for norovirus you need to stay home, Dr. Nichole Miller warned. “You need to not spread this around.”

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.

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