According to the Oregon Health Authority, the E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in that state and in Washington state has grown to include 37 people. There are now 12 people sick with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in Oregon, an increase of 9 from the 3 cases first reported over the weekend. The case count in Washington has grown to 25.
Three of those 12 people in Oregon have been hospitalized. No one has died in this outbreak. Those sickened live in Clackamas, Washington, Columbia, Benton, and Deschutes counties in Oregon, and in Clark, Cowlitz, Island, King, and Skagit counties in Washington state. Health officials in both states are asking that anyone who ate at a Chipotle restaurant in the month of October 2015, and has been experiencing vomiting and bloody diarrhea, to see their health care provider and mention this outbreak.
This bacteria is very contagious. Identifying and treating people who are sick with this infection is critical to helping people recover and to keep the outbreak from growing. E. coli infections easily spread from person-to-person. It’s also important that everyone who has this infection be properly diagnosed. If a person with an E. coli infection is treated with antibiotics, the odds that the infection will develop into hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication, increases. In addition, even mild cases of E. coli food poisoning can cause kidney and organ damage years later.
The Oregon Health Authority, Washington State Department of health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are all working with local health departments to solve this outbreak.
Chipotle has voluntarily closed all of its restaurants in Oregon and Washington state to help control the outbreak. The chain has at least 14 restaurants in the Portland Oregon metro area, which includes Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties.
We also don’t know which food was contaminated with the pathogenic bacteria. News outlets are reporting that it may be some sort of produce, such as lettuce, but no official statement has been made. Oregon Public Health Authority spokesperson Jonathan Modie told reports on November 3 that “it seems like the most common denominator is some kind of vegetable course.”
Officials have not yet stated which strain of E. coli is responsible for this outbreak, although some news outlets are reporting that it is E. coli O26. This strain produces Shiga toxins, which can travel through the bloodstream and kills red blood cells. These cells can then clog the kidneys and cause kidney failure and death.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea that may be bloody and/or watery, nausea, vomiting, and a mild fever. The symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome include pale skin, little or no urine output, lethargy, easy bruising, and a skin rash. If anyone develops these symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately.