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Chipotle Norovirus Outbreak

Ventura County Public Health has reported that 98 customers and 17 employees were sickened on August 18 and 19. After customers reported the illnesses to Chipotle, the restaurant notified health department officials and closed on Friday afternoon to clean and bring in new food before reopening on Saturday for lunch. An inspection of the Chipotle location posted Monday referenced violations for:

• The premises and/or floors, walls, or ceiling are in an unsanitary condition.

• Equipment or utensils are not clean, fully operative and in good repair.

• Flying insects were observed within the food facility.

• Food handlers employed at this facility do not possess a valid food handler card and/or records documenting that food employees possess a valid food handler card are not maintained by the food facility for review as required.

• Equipment is connected directly to the sewer.

• Wall and/or ceiling surfaces are deteriorated and/or damaged.

• The restroom is unclean and in disrepair.

The Norovirus lawyers of Marler Clark have many years of experience working with clients on Norovirus outbreak lawsuits.

Noroviruses are estimated to cause 23 million cases of acute gastroenteritis (commonly called the “stomach flu”) in the U.S. each year, and are the leading cause of gastroenteritis. In addition, norovirus outbreaks may be the most common foodborne illness outbreaks. Noroviruses can cause extended outbreaks because of their high infectivity, persistence in the environment, resistance to common disinfectants, and difficulty in controlling their transmission through routine sanitary measures. Norovirus is a member of the family Caliciviridae. The family of Caliciviridae consists of several distinct groups of viruses that were first named after the places where the outbreaks occurred.

Humans are the only host of norovirus, and norovirus has several mechanisms that allow it to spread quickly and easily. Norovirus infects humans through person-to-person transmission or through contamination of food or water. In addition, Norovirus is able to survive a wide range of temperatures and has evolved to avoid the immune system, which results in outbreaks.

Norovirus illness usually develops 24 to 48 hours after ingestion of contaminated food or water. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, headache and low-grade fever. And although symptoms usually last only one to two days in healthy individuals, Norovirus can become quite serious in children, the elderly, and immune-compromised individuals.

There is no specific treatment available for Norovirus. In most healthy people, the illness is self-limiting and resolves in a few days; however, outbreaks among infants, children, elderly, and immune-compromised populations may result in severe complications among those infected. And death may result without prompt measures.

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