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Illinois Subway unit still closed after illness outbreak

By Alan J. Liddle

LOMBARD, Ill. (March 17, 2010) The number of people with confirmed cases of shigella illness associated with a franchised Subway restaurant here has climbed to 78, with 11 of those individuals requiring hospitalization, public health officials said Wednesday.

In a related development, the Seattle-based law firm of Marler Clark, in conjunction with Newland, Newland and Newland of Arlington Heights, Ill., has filed three lawsuits against the owner of the Lombard Subway at 1009 E. Roosevelt Road on behalf of people allegedly sickened after eating at the restaurant.

Dave Hass, public information officer for the DuPage County Health Department, said the Lombard Subway remains closed after two weeks, as his agency and the Illinois Department of Public Health continue to investigate the cluster of shigella illnesses. Ten of the 11 people hospitalized as a result of their illness have been discharged, he said.

Les Winograd, a spokesman for Doctor’s Associates Inc. of Milford, Conn., franchisor of the 32,502-unit Subway chain, said the franchisee at the Lombard store voluntary closed the restaurant after learning of the outbreak of illnesses.

"The chain’s incident management team, along with the franchisee, and members of our regional office, have been working closely with the health department to aid in the investigation, which is still ongoing," Winograd said. He added that the source of the outbreak has not been determined.

Public health officials said shigella is spread through fecal contamination and that most people who are infected with the toxindevelop gastrointestinal illness, such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach cramps, one to two days after being exposed. Some people, especially young children and the elderly, may require hospitalizations and severe infections with high fevers can be associated with seizures in children younger than 2 years old.

DuPage County officials first publicized the outbreak March 4, when the number of confirmed shigella cases stood at eight. They said then that consumers should contact their physician if they had developed diarrheal illness 12 hours to four days after eating at the Subway store between Feb. 24 and March 1.

The lawsuits filed by Marler Clark and Newland, Newland & Newland in the Circuit Court of the 18th Judicial Circuit in DuPage County accuse the Lombard restaurant's operator, Neel Subway Inc., of being negligent in allegedly selling adulterated food or drink in breach of implied and expressed warranties. The suits seek unspecified compensation for actual, consequential and incidental damages tied to the illnesses suffered by the plaintiffs, which include three adults and a child.

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