July 27, 2017 — Chipotle says a sick employee caused an outbreak of norovirus food poisoning that infected 135 patrons of a restaurant in Sterling, Virginia between July 13 and July 16.
On July 24, Dr. David Goodfriend of the Health Department confirmed that 2 people who were sickened in the outbreak tested positive for the same strain of norovirus.
Chipotle CEO Steve Ells said “we believe someone was working while sick” and blamed the outbreak on a lapse in the company’s sick policy. Chipotle will be requiring all employees to undergo “relentless training” so they understand that they are not allowed to work if they are sick.
The outbreak resulted in the temporary closure of the Chipotle Mexican Grill at 21031 Tripleseven Road in Sterling, Virginia. There have been no illnesses since the restaurant was thoroughly cleaned and re-opened on July 19, according to health department officials.
Norovirus is a highly-contagious virus that causes gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”) with inflammation of the intestines, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. They symptoms appear within 12 to 48 hours of eating contaminated food, and go away in 1 to 3 days.
The outbreak is an unpleasant reminder of 2015, when over 200 people in 12 states were sickened in at least 3 outbreaks of E. coli, Salmonella, and Norovirus food poisoning.
One of those outbreaks was at a Chipotle in Simi Valley, California, where 80 customers and 18 employees were infected with Norovirus in August 2015.
Several lawsuits were filed after those outbreaks. In September 2016, Chipotle said it had paid lawsuit settlements to over 100 people who were infected in the outbreaks in 2015.
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