Chipotle E. coli concerns closed 43 restaurants in several states over the weekend. The decision to close so many stores in both Oregon and Washington was made "out of an abundance of caution," according to company executives.
The Shiga toxin E. coli outbreak includes six incidents of illness at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in both states, the Consumerist reports. An actual count in outbreak victims is not currently available because not all who have been stricken have sought medical attention. As of Sunday evening, a total of 19 people in Washington have contracted E. coli poisoning, and three individuals have become ill with the potentially deadly toxin in Oregon.
Chipotle is keeping dozens of its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest closed this morning after an E. coli outbreak pic.twitter.com/5kXfcDF2nY
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) November 2, 2015
Seventeen of the 22 people known to have been stricken with the E. coli had eaten at a Chipotle restaurant recently, according to a Fox News report. The illness often causes a "watery diarrhea" and abdominal cramps. E. coli victims should be monitored closely for signs of dehydration. The elderly and the very young are believed to be the most susceptible to the kidney failure that can occur from such a poisoning.
To date, no deaths have been reported due to the possible Chipotle E. coli outbreak in Oregon and Washington. Eight individuals have been hospitalized in total.
"After people started hearing about the outbreak, more people will probably go to the doctor and join the list of potential cases," Washington State Department of Health medical epidemiologist Marisa D'Angeli said. "We actually would expect there might be a jump in cases on Monday."
The health department official urged anyone who has eaten at Chipotle since the middle of October and has been experiencing intestinal problems to see a doctor and get tested for the toxin. D'Angeli also stated that anyone who has been struggling with bloody diarrhea, even if they have not eaten at the restaurant, should schedule a visit with their doctor.
"We're very early in the investigation," D'Angeli added when noting that it is possible the investigation could discover that the Shiga toxin could have come from fresh produce delivered to multiple venues.
Everyone who comes forward helps in providing extra clues that could help identify the source of the infection, she said.
Chipotle closes 43 restaurants amid E. coli outbreak https://t.co/gCtD6TSAM1 pic.twitter.com/YolDKuvNx7
— ABC News (@ABC) November 2, 2015
The following is an excerpt from a statement about the E. coli outbreak released by Chipotle.
"The safety and well being of our customers is always our highest priority. 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."
The Chipotle E. coli outbreak is the third food contamination issue that has plagued the chain since August. The earlier foodborne pathogen issues involved cases of the extremely infectious norovirus and salmonella poisoning, Fox Business reports.
The Mexican grill chain boasts 1,700 outlet restaurants. The company has reportedly grown quickly since the brand was launched in 1993. The growing trend to offer menus enhanced with more unprocessed and fresh food has raised the risk for foodborne illness, according to industry experts. The cooking process kills the harmful pathogens that cause illness.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, the Chipotle E. coli patients range in age from 11 to 64 years old.
[Image via Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.com]