Chipotle reopens restaurant that made customers violently ill

Chipotle Test Kitchen 4Hollis JohnsonThe company said the restaurant would be fully sanitised before it reopened.

Chipotle has reopened a restaurant in Sterling, Virginia, which was the source of a suspected norovirus outbreak that sickened multiple customers.

The company says the Sterling restaurant was sanitised during the two days that it was closed.

“While the restaurant was closed, multiple teams performed complete sanitizations of all surfaces,” Chipotle CEO Steve Ells said in a statement Wednesday. “We also provided support to any customers or employees who had reported illness to ensure their well-being.”

Customers reported symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, severe stomach pain, dehydration, and nausea after eating at the Sterling restaurant on Friday and Saturday. One person reported two hospitalizations as a result of the illnesses.

Chipotle’s stock dropped more than 4% Tuesday after Business Insider reported on the restaurant’s closure.

Chipotle said the customers’ symptoms are consistent with norovirus.

“It is unfortunate that anyone became ill after visiting our restaurant, and when we learned of this issue, we took aggressive action to correct the problem and protect our customers,” Ells said. “We quickly and proactively notified local health officials, deployed our safety support teams, and voluntarily closed the restaurant.”

Customers who fell sick after eating at the Sterling restaurant reported “vomiting violently,” fevers, “violent stomach cramps,” and dizziness for several days.

“Friday 7/14 Daughter and friends went to Chipotle,” one customer wrote on iwaspoisoned.com. By the next morning, the person said, the daughter was “violently sick, puking, diarrhoea, severe pain, overnight into Sunday.” The customer added: “Friends ill as well with one friend also in ER.”

The daughter was hospitalized Sunday for dehydration, nausea, and pain and on Monday was still in “severe pain,” according to the customer.

“This is the worst that I have ever seen,” the customer wrote.

Norovirus is different from E. coli, the bacteria that led to a widespread outbreak at Chipotle restaurants in 14 states two years ago.

The virus is highly contagious and causes symptoms like stomachaches, nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting. It’s the most common cause of foodborne illnesses in the US, with more than 21 million cases annually.

Cases of norovirus stemming from restaurants can often involve a worker who failed to wash his or her hands after going to the bathroom.

Chipotle has dealt with norovirus cases in the past. In December 2015, nearly 120 Boston College students fell sick after a norovirus outbreak at a restaurant close to campus.

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