The Washington Department of Health has issued another update in the ongoing E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in that state and in Oregon. In Washington, there are now 29 people sick in this outbreak. In Oregon, the case count remains at 12 for the moment, so there are now 41 people sickened.
The Washington State Health Department is working with local, state, and several partners, including the CDC and FDA, on an investigation to discover the source of the pathogenic bacteria. Chipotle restaurants are under a voluntary closure at this time. Public health officials are working to establish criteria for the restaurants to reopen.
In Washington, the case count by county is: Clark (12), Cowlitz (3), Island (2), King (6), Skagit (5), and Whatcom (1). Nearly all of the 29 cases reported eating at Chipotle restaurants before they became ill. Eleven of these patients have been hospitalized because their illnesses were so serious. The patient age range is from 1 year old to 67 years old.
There are five Washington Chipotle restaurants associated with this outbreak. They are located at: Hazel Dell, 7715 NE 5th Avenue, Suite 109 in Vancouver; at 1404 Broadway Avenue in Seattle; at 4229 University Way NE in Seattle; at 512 Ramsey Way 101 in Kent; and 1753 South Burlington Road in Burlington, Washington. There are more Chipotle restaurants in that state and in Oregon; all have been voluntarily closed.
Washington officials are updating the outbreak every day at 1:00 pm. They are also offering an outbreak summary in Spanish; you can see it on the DOH web site. Washington officials have not identified the strain of E. coli bacteria in this outbreak, but news outlets are reporting that some officials are stating it is E. coli O26. This is a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli strain (STEC) that causes serious illness.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea that may be bloody or watery, a mild fever, nausea, and vomiting. The symptoms usually begin three to eight days after exposure to the pathogenic bacteria. If an E. coli infection is incorrectly diagnosed and a person is treated with antibiotics, the risk of a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) increases.
The symptoms of HUS include little to no urine output, pale skin, lethargy, easy bruising, and a skin rash. If anyone is experiencing these symptoms, getting to a doctor quickly is critical.
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria, which is the type of bacteria sickening people in this outbreak, produce a toxin that kills and deforms red blood cells. Those red blood cells can travel through the bloodstream and clog the filtering system in the kidneys (called glomeruli), and can cause kidney failure, seizures, coma, and death. Those most vulnerable to HUS include young children, the elderly, and anyone who has a chronic illness or compromised immune system.