A Shigella outbreak at the Mariscos San Juan restaurant in California has sickened at least 80 people. Dozens have been hospitalized. The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has received reports of illness since associated with food served at the San Jose restaurant located at 205 N. 4th Street since Saturday October 17th.
Customers who ate at the restaurant became ill with fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Many of them have been hospitalized; 12 were admitted to intensive care.
So far, health officials have confirmed 15 cases of shigellosis, the infection that results from eating food contaminated with Shigella bacteria. Because the investigation is ongoing, lab results from additional cases are expected to arrive daily.
Health officials closed the restaurant on Sunday, October 18. It will remain closed until the source of the problem has been identified and eliminated. Investigators say they are looking at “all possible sources” of contamination.
Shigellosis is an extremely contagious, and it takes only a few bacteria to make you sick. It is transmitted vis the fecal-oral route meaning food contaminated with microscopic amounts of fecal matter containing Shigella bacteria is ingested. Here is how that can happen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Someone infected with shigellosis will have Shigella bacteria in their stools for up to two weeks after their diarrhea has ended. If their hands are not washed properly after using the restroom, anything they touch can become contaminated. When people touch these items or surfaces, their hands can become contaminated and they can become sick if they touch their food or their mouths.
Food can become contaminated if it is handled by someone who has Shigella bacteria on their hands – for example, a food worker who has shigellosis. Flies that breed in infected feces can contaminate food when they land on it. Sometimes, produce can become contaminated in growing fields that contain human sewage, or contaminated irrigation water can spread the bacteria.
Nationwide, about 500,000 cases of shigellosis are reported each year. It does not have a “season.” Although Shigella can affect people of all ages, young children are at greatest risk. Outbreaks are most often associated with daycare or child care centers
Symptoms of shigellosis usually begin between 24 and 48 hours after exposure. They include diarrhea that can sometimes be bloody, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting and tenesmus, or the painful sensation of needing to pass stools even when bowels are empty.
Symptoms usually last about a week, but it could takes several months before bowel habits return to normal. Shigellosis can cause serious illness and death. Patients with severe diarrhea or vomiting can become dehydrated and require immediate medical attention to prevent shock.
Health officials urge anyone who ate at Mariscos San Juan restaurant #3 on 205 N. 4th Street in San Jose on Friday October 16th or Saturday, October 17th, who developed sudden onset of diarrhea and fever within two days of the meal to see a doctor. Mention that you may have been exposed to Shigella. A stool sample can confirm the infection and determine if it is part of the outbreak.