The Oregon Health Authority released a statement today saying that there is an E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in Washington state and Oregon. At least 19 people are sick in Washington and 3 are ill in Oregon.
Eight of those sickened have been hospitalized in this outbreak. No one has died. The patient age range is from 11 to 64 years old. Those sickened live in Clackamas and Washington counties in Oregon, and in Clark, King, Skagit, and Cowlitz counties in Washington. The patients have reported eating at six of the restaurants in those states.
If you or someone you know ate at any Chipotle restaurant in the Northwest between October 14 and 23, 2015 and has been sick with vomiting and bloody diarrhea, see your health care provider. Mention this outbreak.
All Chipotle restaurants in the four county region in Oregon have been voluntarily closed. All of the Chipotle restaurants in Washington state have closed.
The pathogenic bacteria in this outbreak is Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. Epidemiologists are concerned that this outbreak could be serious. The multiplier for E. coli outbreaks is 2, so that means there could be at least 44 people sick. And E. coli bacteria can be spread from person to person.
This is not the first food poisoning outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants this year. In August, a Salmonella outbreak at Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota sickened at least 45 people. Chipotle was also the center of a norovirus outbreak in August at the Simi Valley, California location.
Symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea that can be bloody and/or watery, nausea, vomiting, and a mild fever. In some patients, especially younger children and those with compromised immune systems, this infection can develop into hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious illness that can cause kidney failure and death. Symptoms of HUS include pale skin, lethargy, little or no urine output, easy bruising, and a rash.
We don’t know if anyone in this outbreak has developed HUS, but if they are hospitalized that is possible. If you or anyone you know has been experiencing any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately.
Public health officials are working to determine which foods or beverages may be the cause of this outbreak. E. coli outbreaks in the past have been linked to undercooked hamburger, tomatoes, lettuce, ready-to-eat salads, raw sprouts, raw milk, and unpasteurized juice. If someone is sick with an E. coli infection and prepares and serves food for others, they can pass the infection along.
Foods can become contaminated with this bacteria in the fields, if they are irrigated with contaminated water or animal feces, during transport, or during handling or preparation. Cooking does destroy this bacteria, but it can survive freezing and refrigeration.