Several Chipotle E.Coli cases have prompted restaurants in two states to close today “out of an abundance of caution” because of Shiga toxin recent weeks. 19 customers became sick at several restaurants in Oregon and Washington, according to Consumerist.
An E. coli investigation is still underway the two states, health officials said. Three people in the Portland area and 19 people in Washington became sick after eating at the Chipotle since Oct. 14.
No deaths have been reported and eight people have been hospitalized.
“While the outbreak appears to be linked to food served at Chipotle restaurants, the food or other source of contamination hasn’t yet been determined and remains under investigation,” the Washington Department of Health said in a statement.
Company spokesman Chris Arnold said the Chipotle E. coli safety and well-being of customers is always its highest priority. He said the restaurant chain was notified by health officials that they were investigating several cases that included people who became sick after eating at six restaurants.
“We immediately closed all of our restaurants in the area out of an abundance of caution, even though the vast majority of these restaurants have no reported problems,” Arnold said in a Chipotle statement. The company will work with health officials to determine the cause of the E. coli outbreak.
Chipotle said 43 stores have been closed in the two states. While health inspectors visit these stores for E. Coli, non of the other chain’s 1,700 restaurants have reported any illnesses.
Health officials in Washington said 17 of 19 of those who got sick in the state ate at the chain. They said food at the restaurants is likely the source of the infection, but that no individual food item has been identified.
Chipotle food samples have been collected and will be tested. Infections with E. coli can cause severe stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea which is often bloody, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jonathan Modie, a spokesman with the Oregon Health Authority, said many people may not see a doctor after becoming ill, so the number of people sickened in the outbreak is likely higher. People who become sick with vomiting and bloody diarrhea, and who ate at a Chipotle between Oct. 14 and 23 should see their health care provider.
People have reported symptoms of infection in Clackamas and Washington counties in Oregon, and Clark, King, Skagit and Cowlitz counties in Washington, Modie said.
The Chipotle E. coli cases and similar bacteria strains in the intestines of humans. Most are harmless, but a few can cause serious problems. Health officials say the best defense against the bacterial illness is to thoroughly wash hands with soap and water.