Chipotle Illness Outbreak: 135 People Now Say They Got Sick

The number of people who reported getting sick after eating at a Chipotle in Virginia earlier this month has more than doubled.

More than 135 people have reported they fell ill after eating at the Sterling, Virginia, location from July 13 to July 16, the Loudoun County Health Department announced Monday. On Thursday, they said 60 people had reported illnesses that occurred during the four-day period.

"Based on symptoms reported and these preliminary laboratory results, the cause of the outbreak is believed to be norovirus, though the specific source of the norovirus has not yet been identified," Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the health department, said in a statement. 

For two days, the restaurant was closed after people said they got sick from eating there.

Chipotle reopened the suburban Washington, D.C., location Wednesday after a "complete sanitization." It noted its procedures to deal with the issue quickly and said its food was safe to eat. Its stock nevertheless fell, underscoring its vulnerability following past food scares. The shares were down again Monday.

The health department is not aware of any Chipotle customers who became ill once the location reopened.

Chipotle initially said the company became aware of a "small number" of reported illnesses. The reported symptoms were consistent with norovirus, for which symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain.

The company has been working on winning back customers since an E. coli outbreak in the fall of 2015, which was followed by a norovirus outbreak at a single restaurant later that same year.

Norovirus is a leading cause of illnesses from contaminated food, and infected employees are a frequent source of outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, often by touching foods such as raw fruits and vegetables with their bare hands before serving them. The agency says one out of six Americans get sick each year by consuming contaminated food or drinks more broadly. 

Goodfriend said some of those sickened were Chipotle employees.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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