Norovirus outbreak tied to Louisiana casino leaves more than 200 sick

(CNN) — State health officials in Louisiana are investigating an outbreak of norovirus that has sickened more than 200 people, the Louisiana Department of Health said.

The department was first alerted to the outbreak on Feb. 5 after a number of people reported becoming ill while visiting the L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles, according to Sean Ellis, a public information officer for the Louisiana Department of Health.

Norovirus is described by health officials as a “highly contagious type of gastrointestinal illness, or stomach virus” that can affect anyone who has direct contact with an ill person, touches contaminated surfaces and puts their hands in their mouth, or consumes contaminated food or water.

The virus is not to be confused with the coronavirus, stomach flu or influenza.

Symptoms, which include extreme nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever, begin 24 to 48 hours after a patient is infected and last one to two days, Louisiana health officials said.

While the outbreak spread in Calcasieu and Vernon Parishes, Ellis said the health department does not “see this as a further threat to the public,” although it is continuing to monitor the situation closely.

“L’Auberge du Lac is aware of reported incidents of a stomach-related illness among a few guests and team members,” L’Auberge general manager Michael Pendergast said in a statement obtained by CNN affiliate KPLC.

“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,” Pendergast added.

Louisiana health officials ask anyone in the area who experienced norovirus symptoms in the past two weeks to complete an online survey to help with its investigation.

“People with norovirus can easily spread the illness from the moment they begin experiencing symptoms to several days after they recover,” Dr. Frank Welch, an immunization director for the Louisiana Department of Health, said in a statement.

“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,” Welch said.

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