The Loudoun County Health Department’s investigation into reports of illness at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Sterling has identified approximately 60 sick people who reported being at the restaurant last week.
“One ill patron has tested positive for norovirus,” said health department director Dr. David Goodfriend. “This provides additional information but is not sufficient to determine the cause of the outbreak. The Health Department is awaiting further test results, which should be available early next week.”
Customers who ate at the restaurant and became ill are encouraged to contact the Health Department at 703-771-5411. Additional questions or concerns can be addressed by contacting the Health Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Monday, the health department was notified by Chipotle Mexican Grill at 21031 Tripleseven Road in Sterling, and by local medical providers, of customers complaining of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea over the previous two days.
The restaurant voluntarily closed that day to undergo “a complete sanitization,” and has been working closely with the Health Department to help identify the cause of the illnesses and to prevent future illnesses, including having Health Department staff onsite on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The outbreak is being investigated as a virus spread by a human carrier rather than a problem in the restaurant’s supply chain. Only the Sterling location was affected.
The restaurant reopened on Wednesday.
The incident got national attention, in part because the company has had previous problems with viral outbreaks and contamination. A similar outbreak was reported at a Boston Chipotle restaurant in 2015, when 80 customers reported symptoms of the virus after eating there. Last year, the company had an E.coli contamination problem that hit its restaurants in 14 states.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six Americans gets sick from contaminated food each year. Norovirus, sometimes called stomach flu, is the most common cause of food-borne illness. Frequent hand washing and staying home when sick are two of the most important means of preventing the spread of infection.