While the incident has not been officially linked with another outbreak that sickened over 50 people across nine states, it raises the sad, sad question: Is this the beginning of the end for one of our favorite restaurants?
According to reports coming from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, over 120 students from Boston College so far have been struck with gastrointestinal symptoms. The outbreak is significant enough that the college sent out a memo to all students, encouraging them to contact the health department if they become ill. It was noted that several members of the men's basketball team were affected by the incident.
Boston health officials say the illness is most likely norovirus, not E. coli, and isolated to one restaurant. Test results are pending. While the investigation is underway, the originating restaurant has shut its doors while investigators figure out exactly what has happened.
The FDA has confirmed that the earlier reported Chipotle E. coli outbreak, which began along the Pacific Northwest in October, has now reached nine states, including California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. While 20 of those affected have required hospitalization, none to date has developed a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, and there have been no deaths.
However easy it may be to link these new cases of sickness with the nine-state E. coli outbreak, there is currently no hard evidence to connect them. The health department in Massachusetts is taking no chances — it is conducting a thorough investigation for the health and safety of its customers.
It's hard, though, to not think about what may be lurking within your amazing customized burrito the next time you visit your local Chipotle. While not on the same scale, we can't help but reflect on the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli crisis that left over 700 sickened, 171 hospitalized and four dead. Despite the massive media coverage of that food poisoning incident, the company was able to recover, change its policies and make food safety a priority, so it's not to difficult to imagine Chipotle having a similar outcome.
If you are worried that your gastrointestinal symptoms may have been caused by food poisoning at Chipotle (or any other restaurant, for that matter), report it as soon as you can to your local health department. Symptoms of infections caused by exposure to E. coli include stomach pain, diarrhea (possibly bloody), vomiting and occasionally mild fever. This way, your health department can test, track and take steps to keep the general public safe.
Nobody wants to get sick from doing something as simple as going out for a quick, delicious dinner. Hopefully the health department will get everything sorted out, and we can go back to loving our burritos.
As of this writing, we've reached out to Chipotle for a statement but have not heard back.
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