More than 130 people fell ill after eating at the Sterling, Virginia Chipotle that’s at the center of a suspected norovirus outbreak, according to a website that tracks foodborne illnesses.
Eighty-nine reports were made to the website iwaspoisoned.com indicating that 133 customers fell sick after eating at the Sterling Chipotle last week, according to Patrick Quade, the website’s founder.
Chipotle said Tuesday that it had received a “small number” of reports of illnesses from customers who ate at the restaurant, and closed the location for two days as a result.
Quade said dozens of customers came forward and reported illnesses after eating at the Sterling location following Business Insider’s report on the suspected norovirus outbreak.
Customers reported symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, severe stomach pain, dehydration, and nausea after eating at the restaurant.
Quade said the surge in reports is normal in cases like this.
“This is normal [and has] happened with all the other public health confirmed outbreaks that we caught,” he said.
Anyone can anonymously report illnesses to the website, but many people posted pictures of their receipts to prove that they ate there. The website has a successful track record of identifying foodborne illness outbreaks before public health officials are made aware of them.
Chipotle has since reopened the Sterling restaurant after sanitizing it 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.”
Chipotle said the customers’ symptoms are consistent with norovirus.
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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