Chipotle Closes Over 40 Stores Amid E. Coli Outbreak

Chipotle has temporarily shut down 43 of its locations in the Pacific northwest after an E coli outbreak linked to the food chain affected nearly two dozen people.

As of Friday, three people in the Portland area and 19 people in western Washington reported E. coli symptoms, according to the Washington State Department of Health. Of the 22 people, 17 had eaten at a Chipotle restaurant within the past few weeks. So far the cases reported have come from 6 Chipotle locations, but the company has shuttered 43 of its restaurants out of caution.

Seven patients from Washington state and one from Oregon have been hospitalized for E. coli, and no deaths have occurred. It is the third outbreak of foodborne illness associated with Chipotle this year.

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Health officials are investigating the cause of the outbreak, and urge anyone who thinks they have become ill after eating at a Chipotle within the past three weeks to see a healthcare provider. Officials expect the number of E. coli cases to increase as more people hear about the outbreak and visit the doctor.

Symptoms of E. coli can include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever and vomiting.

“The elderly and very young children are more likely to become severely ill from this kind of E. coli infection,” state epidemiologist Scott Lindquist said in a statement.

About 265,000 E. coli infections occur each year in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not all cases are diagnosed because many infected people do not seek medical care.

The outbreak linked to Chipotle most likely came a fresh food product because it could not be traced to one affected individual or one instance of cross-contamination of food since the cases are connected with various restaurants, Marisa D’Angeli, state epidemiologist, told the Associated Press.

Reopening the closed locations will depend on the investigation results, said Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold.

“Right now, that is the priority,” Arnold said.

The company does not plan to close any other restaurants in other states.

Chipotle is currently facing lawsuits stemming from two prior foodborne illnesses.

In August, more than 100 people at a Chipotle in Simi Valley, California fell ill from norovirus infections that caused nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The location closed for a day to clean up health code violations. Also in August, 64 people were affected by a salmonella outbreak at Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota. Health officials identified tomatoes as the source of the outbreak in September.

Chipotle shares dropped about 3 percent in early trading on Monday.


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