October 16, 2017

Outbreak at Chipotle in Sterling, VA is Norovirus

The Loudoun County Health Department has announced that the outbreak at the Chipotle Mexican Grill at 21031 Tripleseven road in Sterling, Virginia is most likely caused by norovirus. The notice states that two ill patrons have tested positive for the same strain of norovirus.

Norovirus

Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Health Department said, “Based on symptoms reported and these preliminary laboratory results, the cause of the outbreak is believed to be norovirus, though the specific source of the norovirus has not yet been identified.┬áThe Health Department is not aware of any customers becoming ill since the reopening of the facility last Wednesday.”

Some of the people who are sick in this outbreak are Chipotle employees. But the source of norovirus is notoriously difficult to track down. A customer could have brought the virus into the restaurant.

More than 135 people have been sickened after visiting that restaurant. Norovirus, which is more commonly known as the stomach flu, is the most common cause of foodborne illness. The virus is very contagious. Symptoms include vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.

People usually get sick 12 to 48 hours after exposure in this type of illness. Most people get better within a few days without medical treatment.

The best way to prevent norovirus is to wash your hands frequently, especially when preparing and/or serving food and after using the bathroom. Stay home when you are sick, especially if you have a diarrheal or vomiting illness.

Chipotle has had issues with food poisoning outbreaks in the past. In 2015, especially, there were several outbreaks linked to the chain. In July 2015, five people were sickened with E. coli O157:H7 infections at the restaurant in Seattle. In August 2015, more than 200 people were sickened with norovirus after eating at the restaurant in Sim Valley, California. Then in September 2015, a Salmonella Newport outbreak at Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota sickened more than 60 people; tomatoes were pinpointed as the source in that outbreak.

The most serious outbreaks were in late 2015. Two E. coli O26 outbreaks, one which began in October 2015 and the other in December of that year, sickened at least 60 people. Patients lived in 16 different states. Twenty-two people were hospitalized in those outbreaks. The source of the pathogenic bacteria was never identified in those outbreaks.

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