Chipotle Mexican Grill Linked to Ohio Outbreak, Possibly NorovirusApr 23, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
As of late Monday, over 432 people reported they were stricken with food poisoning after eating at the Chipotle Mexican Grill in the City of Kent, across from the Kent State University campus in Ohio. Also, on Monday, that city's health department sent food and biological samples from the sick customers to the Ohio Department of Health in Columbus. As of yesterday, investigators confirmed that they collected enough information to lead them to believe that a norovirus is what is making people ill.
Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis in humans; recent studies confirm that norovirus causes around half of all gastroenteritis worldwide. Norovirus infection causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping. Other symptoms include chills, headache, low-grade fever, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly and the infected person may feel very sick. In most cases, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for a couple of days. Children tend to vomit more than adults and very young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable. Symptoms usually occur within 12 to 48 hours from exposure. People may feel very sick and vomit many times a day, but most people get better within a couple of days and suffer no long-term health effects; however, some are unable to drink enough liquids to replace what they lost and can become dehydrated and require medical attention. Norovirus, like all viruses, cannot be treated with antibiotics.
It will be around five days before investigators confirm the cause of the illness; the origin could take longer, if it is ever discovered. City Health Commissioner John Ferlito said they are looking into many possibilities and according to the Portage County Health Department, those who fell ill ate at the Chipotle on State Route 59 in Kent between Tuesday April 15th and Friday April 18th. Complaints included severe vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and cramping. Some complained of low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness.
Athough the restaurant closed voluntarily, a Chipotle spokesman says there's no proof food was to blame and that the restaurant is working with the health department.
Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people and people can become infected with the virus by eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with norovirus; touching contaminated surfaces or objects and placing their hand in their mouth; having direct contact with an infected person and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill). Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person. People are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least three days after recovery and some may be contagious for as long as two weeks after recovery. There are many different strains of norovirus, making it difficult for a person’s body to develop long-lasting immunity; therefore, norovirus illness can recur throughout a person’s lifetime.