November 1, 2015
Chipotle Mexican Grill Closes 43 Stores Due To E. Coli Outbreak

Chipotle Mexican Grill voluntarily closed some of their stores after an E. coli outbreak was linked to the chain.

According to health officials, 22 people have presented with E. coli symptoms after eating at six different Chipotle restaurants. Saturday, it was confirmed that each of those patients had tested positive for the disease.

[ Photo by (Joe Raedle)/Getty Images ]The patients that ate at Chipotle Mexican Grill were from Oregon and Washington states. Clackamas and Washington Counties in Oregon; Clark, King, Skagit, and Cowlitz counties in Washington. All the patients were between 11- and 64-years-of-age.

Dr. Scott Lindquist, a Washington state epidemiologist, explained that the Shiga toxin was producing the E. coli bacteria, but the exact strain has yet to be pinpointed. Some strains can be relatively harmless. Others, however, can be deadly.

For instance, there was a case in 2014 of a Nevada mother dying due to complications she presented with after contracting E. coli from raw cookie dough.

"I'm concerned that this could be a serious outbreak," Dr. Lindquist told the Seattle Times.

Death from E. coli is rare. At the moment, this outbreak has only caused eight hospitalizations and no deaths, according to a news conference held in downtown Seattle.

State officials became concerned about the link between the E. coli outbreak and the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain after they learned that 17 out of 19 patients had eaten at the Mexican restaurant shortly before becoming ill.

[ Photo by (Joe Raedle)/Getty Images ]Authorities are investigating what the specific catalyst of the outbreak was. Although they are certain about the link to the six different Chipotle restaurants, they are unsure of which food item might be carrying the bacteria. They are conducting interviews with those sickened to try and find the common item they all ingested.

Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., said that safety of consumers and employees was the most important thing to the company.

"After being notified by health department officials in the Seattle and Portland areas that they were investigating approximately 20 cases of E. coli, including people who ate at six of our restaurants in those areas, 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. We are working with health department officials to determine the cause of this issue. We offer our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected by this situation."
True to his word, the Mexican Grill closed 43 of their stores, temporarily, while officials continue to investigate the outbreak. Since only six of the restaurants were under investigation, it might seem like overkill, but the company is doing its best to do right by their consumers.

With only 22 known victims of this E. coli outbreak, health authorities are concerned that some people may be avoiding doctors. Officials are preparing for that possibility and are asking that anyone who ate at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in Washington or Oregon between October 14 and October 23, and have developed vomiting or bloody diarrhea, to seek help with a health care provider.

Also seek medical attention if you have come in close contact with someone who has symptoms of E. coli and ate at Chipotle during the aforementioned times.

Photo by (Sean Gallup)/Getty Images ]

According to the Mayo Clinic, E. coli symptoms include: diarrhea that can range from watery to severe (often bloody); tenderness, pain, or cramping of the abdomen; nausea; and vomiting. If diarrhea becomes persistent, bloody, or tarry black, see a doctor immediately.

Chipotle Mexican Grill was in the news for something similar this past August. According to the Los Angeles Times, there was an outbreak of norovirus that affected 93 consumers and employees in Ventura County, California.

[ Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images ]