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Lawsuit filed in Snohomish County E. coli outbreak

Nancy Bartley

Seattle Times

The parents of a 9-year-old girl who became sick after eating at a Lake Stevens restaurant that has been linked to an outbreak of E. coli filed a lawsuit today in Snohomish County Superior Court.

In the lawsuit, Ray and Allison Riojas claim that their daughter became severely ill after eating chips, salsa, guacamole, a chicken enchilada, rice and beans at Ixtapa restaurant, which the Snohomish Health District has linked to an outbreak of E. coli that has sickened more than a dozen people.

On Oct. 14, the girl lost her appetite, had diarrhea and by Oct. 16 had been taken twice to Providence Everett Medical Center to be treated for dehydration. When her symptoms worsened she was rushed to the emergency room at Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center in Seattle, where she began vomiting blood.

According to the lawsuit, the girl tested positive for the same strain of E. coli suspected for causing the illness in 13 others who reported dining at Ixtapa earlier this month.

The lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who for 15 years has specialized in food-contamination cases.

Thirteen of 17 cases of E. coli contamination in Snohomish County have been linked to the restaurant, according to the Snohomish Health District.

The 13 people ate at Ixtapa Restaurant, 303 91st Ave. N.E., between Oct. 2 and 13, said Suzanne Pate, a health district spokeswoman. People began feeling the onset of the illness between Oct. 7 and 17.

The Mexican restaurant was closed Tuesday and is cooperating with health inspectors, who will oversee its sanitizing and disposal of opened food products, Pate said.

Health inspectors allowed the restaurant to reopen this afternnon.

The cases were first reported last week. Two people were hospitalized briefly, but both are now recovering at home. The 13 people who became ill after eating at the restaurant range in age from 9 to 75. Health inspectors continue to interview those who became ill to determine what sickened them.

Of the four others believed to have E. coli, three of them have no connection to the restaurant. The other has not yet been interviewed, Pate said. Where they may have contacted E. coli is unknown.

"It's possible for people who have E. coli to shed the E. coli for several days" and infect others, Pate said. "That's why we jump on this so quickly.

"The solution is so simple," she said. "Wash your hands."

Outbreaks historically have been associated with undercooked hamburger, raw-milk consumption, lake swimming, petting zoos and day-care centers. In Snohomish County, the average number of E. coli cases ranges from 16 to 20 per year.

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